The guilty verdict against former News of the World editor Andy Coulson and the acquittal of his former colleague and lover, Rebekah Brooks, mark an end to the nearly three-year legal case of the British phone hacking scandal that plagued owner Rupert Murdoch and forced the media mogul to shutter the tabloid.
How did we get there?
The phone hacking scandal was uncovered in June 2011, when it was found that the News of the World, between 2000 and 2006, accessed voicemails and cell phones of everyone from the royal family to missing teenager Milly Dowler, whose family was given false hope that she was alive when authorities realized somebody was deleting her voicemails (it was later revealed it was News of the World journalists listening to the messages), to Sienna Miller (the tabloid snooped on the movie star’s voicemail and found she left an “I love you” message for Daniel Craig while she was out with her then-boyfriend, Jude Law) to the lawyer representing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and James Hewitt, who allegedly had an affair with Princess Diana.
Brooks, who was admired by Murdoch, was indicted because she headed the News of the World while Milly Dowler's voicemails were being accessed.
Besides damaging Murdoch’s News Corp. (now NASDAQ:NWS), which owned the News of the World, the scandal also tarnished British Prime Minister David Cameron. Coulson, who was at the News at the World at the time the hacking occurred, was Cameron’s communications director when the scandal came out, forcing Coulson to resign. The connection to Coulson drew criticism of Cameron, since Coulson had the highest level of vetting, which enabled him to have access to classified government materials.
Coulson’s hire at 10 Downing Street was also slammed -- a decision that Cameron said he wouldn’t have made in hindsight. He apologized Monday for appointing Coulson to run his press operation.
"I am extremely sorry I employed him. It was the wrong decision," Cameron said, according to the BBC. The prime minister previously withheld judgment and waited to comment until the case concluded.
Monday’s verdicts found Coulson guilty of conspiracy to hack phones during his time at the News of the World, which he left to run Cameron’s press shop, and Brooks not guilty of the same charge plus others related to the phone hacking scandal.
Cameron isn’t the only government official to be damaged by the scandal. Coulson and Clive Goodman, the former royal editor at the News of the World, are still awaiting their fate on bribery charges. The defendants were alleged to have paid off public officials for secret royal phone directories.