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updated: 2/20/2014 7:22 AM

Hacking trial: Brooks acquitted on 1 of 5 charges

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  • Rebekah Brooks, right, former News International chief executive, arrives at the Central Criminal Court in London.

    Rebekah Brooks, right, former News International chief executive, arrives at the Central Criminal Court in London.
    Associated Press

Associated Press

LONDON -- Former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks was acquitted Thursday of one of the five charges she faced over wrongdoing at Rupert Murdoch's British tabloids -- an allegation that she bribed an official for a picture of Prince William in a bikini.

Judge John Saunders told the jury at Britain's phone hacking trial that there was "no case for Mrs. Brooks to answer" to one charge of conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office.

The charge related to a picture obtained by The Sun newspaper when Brooks was its editor, showing Prince William dressed as a Bond girl at a party. Saunders said "considerable uncertainty" had arisen about the source of the photo.

Brooks, 45, still faces one similar charge, and charges of conspiring to hack phones and obstruct police.

Brooks, the former chief executive of Murdoch's British newspaper unit, took the stand at London's Central Criminal Court as the defense opened its case, almost four months into the trial. She answered questions in a clear but occasionally hesitant voice as her lawyer, Jonathan Laidlaw, asked her about her childhood and start in journalism.

She and six others are on trial on charges stemming from the revelation that Murdoch's News of the World eavesdropped on the voicemails of celebrities, politicians and even crime victims in what prosecutors have called a "frenzy" to get scoops. The scandal led Murdoch to shut the 168-year-old News of the World and sparked wide-ranging police investigations.

All seven defendants deny the charges against them.

Laidlaw told jurors that to convict any of the defendants, "the prosecution must make you sure of guilt."

He said there was "an awful lot which is going on in the background of this case and in its shadows. There are agendas being pursued elsewhere. So please be careful."

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