Hacking Trial Lawyer: Brooks And Coulson Had 6-Year Affair
The phone-hacking trial taking place in London was the source of new revelations Thursday as prosecuting attorney Andrew Edis told jurors that defendants Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson carried on a six-year “secret” affair from 1998-2004. Brooks is the former head of News International (now News UK), the British press arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, and Coulson was editor of the now-closed News Of The World before leaving to join Prime Minister David Cameron’s team as his communications director. As part of his opening remarks, Edis stressed that he was not bringing up the relationship between Brooks and Coulson, which the prosecution said was evident from a letter to Coulson that was found on one of Brooks’ computers, to intrude on their privacy or pass judgment. “The point that I’m going to make in relation to that letter is that over the relevant period, what Mr Coulson knew, Mrs Brooks knew too. And what Mrs Brooks knew, Mr Coulson knew too — that’s the point.” He told the court the affair spanned the period covered by the phone-hacking conspiracy charges the pair is facing, according to The Times. “Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson are charged with conspiracy,” Edis said, “and, when people are charged with conspiracy, the first question a jury has to answer is how well did they know each other? How much did they trust each other?” At the time of the letter in 2004, Brooks was editor of The Sun and Coulson was at NOTW.
Global Showbiz Briefs: New Revelations In Phone-Hacking Scandal; Claire Danes To Host Nobel Peace Prize Concert; More
Hacking Trial Lawyer: Brooks And Coulson Had 6-Year Affair
On October 14, Rupert Murdoch tweeted: “Big media trials in London in 2 weeks. Remember, everyone innocent until proven guilty, entitled to fair trial in most countries.” Murdoch was referring to the criminal trial related to phone hacking at his now defunct News Of The World tabloid. This morning, eight defendants including former Murdoch employees Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson made it to court amid a media frenzy for what some are calling the “Trial of the Century.” It may feel like a century once the proceedings wrap sometime around Easter 2014 and after an expected 100 witnesses have been called. Jury selection began today with the prosecution starting later in the week.
While Murdoch, Brooks and Coulson are no longer linked professionally, the outcome of the trial has the potential to impact the mogul’s business going forward. Even the News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal wrote that the courtroom drama “could further embarrass both the media giant and the British government.” One of the lines of questioning during the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics, the probe hatched by Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of the News Of The World scandal, focused on the relationships between politicians and newspaper proprietors and editors. With Brooks and Coulson now standing trial, this could put News Corp’s relationship with the UK government back into the spotlight. Brooks was head of News Corp‘s UK press arm, News International (now News UK), until the phone-hacking scandal first exploded at the News Of The World in July 2011. She has denied the five charges against her including conspiracy to hack phones, conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office by paying officials for stories, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Coulson was formerly editor of News Of The World. He went on to become Cameron’s spin doctor, a post he vacated in 2011. He is facing three charges related to phone hacking and conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. They are joined by six other defendants who have all pleaded not guilty, including Brooks’ husband Charlie, a longtime Cameron friend.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Rupert Murdoch Eyeing Financial Times?; Ruling On Hacking Appeal; ‘Either Way’ Helmer’s Next Pic
Report: Rupert Murdoch, Abu Dhabi Media Group Eyeing Financial Times
A report out of Malaysia circulated this morning which claimed Rupert Murdoch and the state-owned Abu Dhabi Media Group are in talks to acquire The Financial Times Group for $1.2B. News Corp. said, “This is completely untrue” and FT owner, Pearson, also denied the report saying, “The Financial Times is not for sale, and Pearson is not in any talks to sell it.” The talks, reported by Malaysian political and business magazine The Edge Review, cited financial executives familiar with the negotiations which had purportedly been going on for the past month. The Financial Times Group includes the flagship Financial Times newspaper as well as The Economist magazine. Per AFP, the report said the Abu Dhabi group is eyeing a 75% stake with Murdoch’s new News Corp. taking 25%. News Corp. officially split into two entities today. In an interview published in the FT website on Thursday evening, chief executive of the publishing business, Robert Thomson, said News Corp. could use its $2.6B of net cash for acquisitions, but there was no mention of the FT, and he also played down expectations of a bid for the Los Angeles Times. Thomson is a former U.S. managing editor of the FT.
Judges Deny Appeals To Drop Charges Against Hacking-Scandal Figures
In other News Corp.-related news, former News International chief Rebekah Brooks, and former News Of The World editor Andy Coulson have both been denied appeals to have criminal charges against them dropped. Neither appeared in a London court Friday, but three judges there dismissed the appeal that had been brought by Brooks, Coulson and three others, The Guardian said. Brooks and Coulson’s trials begin in September, when they will face charges related to phone hacking. The appeals were fashioned on the grounds that the law does not extend to voicemails that already had been listened to.
Former Rupert Murdoch lieutenant Rebekah Brooks and former News Of The World editor Andy Coulson appeared in a London court today on charges of allegedly conspiring to bribe public officials. While both of their cases were adjourned to another date, according to BBC News, four others pleaded guilty to selling information to the News Corp.-owned Sun tabloid. Two former police officers, an ex-prison officer and a public official (who was not named for legal reasons) are the first to plead guilty to misconduct in a public office under Scotland Yard’s three linked investigations into illegal acts by journalists. Brooks, formerly chief of News Corp. press arm News International, and Coulson, also both face charges in the phone-hacking investigation. The provisional trial date is September 9 this year.
Meanwhile, in a bit of good news for News International, The Times and Sunday Times were awarded nine UK Press Awards on Thursday night, including Newspaper of the Year and Scoop of the Year for The Times and Sports Team of the Year for the Sunday Times. Occasional Twitter user Murdoch sent out a few missives about politics yesterday, but there was no shout out for the wins.
After Times Newspapers independent directors refused to approve Rupert Murdoch’s appointment of editors to The Times and Sunday Times last week, the News Corp. chief has flown to London to hold a summit meeting, The Guardian reports. The visit is expected to include “clear-the-air” talks with the Times Newspapers directors who were given oversight under the terms that allowed Murdoch to acquire the papers in 1981. Creating a potential standoff, the directors on Friday refused to accept News Corp.’s nominations of John Witherow and Martin Ivens for permanent appointments at The Times and Sunday Times, respectively. Witherow, who has been editor of the Sunday Times for 18 years, is replacing James Harding at the helm of The Times on an acting basis for now, but that’s understood to be a source of some consternation. Harding left the paper in December saying, “It has been made clear to me that News Corporation would like to appoint a new editor of The Times. I have, therefore, agreed to stand down.” Murdoch was seen in the newsroom at The Sun and The Times on Monday. In separate but related news, the Crown Prosecution Service said today it will charge defense editor of The Sun, Virginia Wheeler, with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office as part of the ongoing Operation Elveden inquiry. Both former News International chief Rebekah Brooks …
Rebekah Brooks And Andy Coulson Will Face Criminal Charges Over Alleged Payments To Public Officials
Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson are already facing criminal charges in relation to the phone-hacking scandal that has rocked News Corp.‘s UK press arm, News International. Today, Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said it would also level criminal charges against former News International chief Brooks and former News Of The World editor Coulson in relation to Operation Elveden, the investigation into alleged corrupt payments by newspapers to police officers and other public officials. Former Rupert Murdoch lieutenant Brooks was editor of The Sun newspaper from 2003-2009 and later became head of News International. Prosecutors today said they had concluded that Brooks, along with ex-Sun reporter John Kay and Ministry of Defence employee Bettina Jordan Barber, “should be charged with a conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012. This conspiracy relates to information allegedly provided by Bettina Jordan Barber for payment, which formed the basis of a series of news stories published by The Sun. It is alleged that approximately £100,000 was paid” to Barber between 2004 and 2011.”
‘Skyfall’ Brings Windfall To UK’s Odeon Circuit
On Thursday, Skyfall became the UK’s all-time highest grossing 007 movie, taking £57M ($91.2)in just 12 days. Odeon, Britain’s largest cinema chain, is reaping the benefits of the breakout Bond movie scoring the largest 7-day opening ever for a single film with £11.3M ($18.1M) in takings at its theaters. Its flagship cinema, Odeon Leicester Square, also set a new record with more than £530K ($848K) in Skyfall’s first week to overtake Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which took £495K ($792K at current exchange rate) in 2011. Odeon had a 30.5% market share of Skyfall’s UK box office in its first week.
Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and other former journalists from the now-shuttered News Of The World tabloid were in a London court today to face charges related to the phone-hacking scandal. After a short hearing at the Old Bailey court, a provisional trial date was set for September 9, 2013. Brooks, the former chief exec of News Corp.’s UK press ar News International, is accused of three counts of alleged phone hacking, including a general charge that could affect as many as 600 victims including celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. She also faces three counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
David Cameron will become the first sitting UK Prime Minister to appear on The Late Show With David Letterman when he stops by for Wednesday’s show. In New York to give a keynote speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Cameron will use the slot to “bang the drum for British business” as he attempts to keep the country basking in the Olympics afterglow. The British press is having fun at the prospect with The Times calling it a “high-risk move” and The Guardian surmising it’s “brave, if slightly foolhardy” given Letterman’s ability to ask “awkward” questions. London Mayor Boris Johnson appeared on The Late Show in June and almost came up short when the host asked the famously disheveled politician how long he’d been cutting his own hair. A Downing Street aide told The Times that Cameron’s interview “will certainly have some light-hearted parts.” Perhaps not so light-hearted if Letterman queries the PM on his cozy relationship with some of the folks involved in the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal: Both his former communications director, Andy Coulson, and his neighbor, Rebekah Brooks, are set to appear in court Wednesday on charges related to the scandal.
UK Phone-Hacking Could Haunt Murdochs For Three More Years
Rupert Murdoch could be 84 years old before the British police complete multiple investigations into The News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers, who’s in charge of three overlapping probes into alleged criminal wrongdoing by journalists, said the task may continue through 2015, according to the Guardian. Akers, who is retiring in October, told a Commons home affairs select committee that “resources have been factored in for the next three years.” She said the force had identified more than 4,700 potential phone-hacking victims and found 1,069 were likely to have had their voicemail messages intercepted. So far 79 people have been arrested including former News International legal adviser Tom Crone, former chief executive Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charlie and Prime Minister David Cameron’s former spin doctor Andy Coulson. Akers said the Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service would consider the likelihood of further criminal prosecutions, adding, “We are now prioritising getting cases through court.” Scotland Yard still has 185 officers working on the investigations.
Network Ten Shares Slide To Record Low
Australia’s Network Ten board members Lachlan Murdoch (chairman), Gina Rinehart and Jack Cowin seem powerless to stop a steep slide in the company’s fortunes. The share price hit a record low of 37.5 cents today, down from 80 cents in March, and broker Commonwealth Bank Global Markets Research forecasts it will sink as as low as 30 cents. Ten’sratings have taken a hit from the failures of three Australian shows launched after the London Olympics, Everybody Dance Now, I Will Survive and Don’t Tell the Bride, which resulted in the exit of chief programmer David Mott. The only new show that has any traction is Puberty Blues, a drama inspired by Bruce Beresford’s 1981 feature. The ratings of Ten’s main channel have declined by 5% this year while Nine is up by 5.3% and Seven is off by 0.3%. The broker said Ten is “working hard to reposition itself and build out a new programming lineup, however we see continued ratings/revenue share risk given the large number of hours that need to be replaced and expect the TV ad market to remain challenging.” - Don Groves
It’s expected to amount to the biggest single revelation of alleged phone-hacking victims. Prosecutors are preparing to announce the names of up to 600 people related to a criminal case against former News Of The World staffers. High-profile names already to surface include Jude Law, Sienna Miller, Sadie Frost, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Within weeks, however, the public face of the list will grow, according to The Independent. Expected to come to light are the names of more actors along with pop stars and politicians, the newspaper reports. Police are said to be contacting hundreds of people to let them know.
Andy Coulson and six other former News Of The World journalists appeared in a London court this morning on phone hacking charges relating to their time at the now defunct paper. The group were given a preliminary hearing date of Sept 26. That’s the same day that former News International chief exec Rebekah Brooks is expected to have a plea hearing on charges of perverting the course of justice amid the investigation into phone hacking at the News Corp-controlled tabloid. Coulson – who was also the former press secretary to UK prime minister David Cameron – and the other journalists have each been charged with conspiring to intercept the voice mails of well-known people and/or those associated with them. Those well-known people include Jude Law, Sienna Miller, Sadie Frost, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Earlier this month, Brooks, who has been arrested twice, was officially charged with phone hacking and will appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on that charge on Sept 3.
Joe Utichi contributes to Deadline’s UK coverage:
Tonight’s Scotland Yard development was expected. Rebekah Brooks will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on September 3rd. The police statement lists Brooks as “unemployed”. The 44-year-old executive who ran Rupert Murdoch‘s UK newspaper business and top-edited the News Of the World answered bail at Lewisham police station. She stands accused of one general charge of alleged phone hacking between October 2000 and August 2006 that could affect as many as 600 victims including famous television and film stars including Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Jude Law, Sienna Miller, and Sadie Frost. The charges place Brooks at the center of the Crown Prosecution Service’s case against the defunct News Of The World tabloid. Brooks also faces specific charges of illegally accessing the mobile phone voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
The News International British publishing subsidiary acknowledged today that the company is aware that London police are considering whether to file charges against its board over phone hacking at the shuttered News of the World tabloid, Bloomberg reported. Prosecutors are advising the Metropolitan Police Service on possible corporate offenses. News International said deputy assistant police commissioner Sue Akers, who is leading the probe, had referred to possible corporate offenses but also “that she agreed that the current senior management and corporate approach at News International has been to assist and come clean,” News International said in a statement. Some 60 people have been arrested so far including former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks and News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who later served as an adviser to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. Even if company officers could face criminal charges, prosecutors would have to prove that anyone charged was aware of wrongdoing.
Former News Of The World Editors To Face Phone-Hacking Charges; Alleged Victims Include Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Jude Law
Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News Corp‘s News International and a one-time editor of the News Of The World, will face charges in connection with phone-hacking, Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service announced this morning. Andy Coulson, the former News Of The World editor who went on to be Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications director, will also face charges. Along with a group of former News Of The World journalists, they are each charged with “conspiring to intercept communications without lawful authority, from 3rd October 2000 to 9th August 2006. The communications in question are the voicemail messages of well-known people and/or those associated with them,” said the CPS. Those well-known people include Jude Law, Sienna Miller, Sadie Frost, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. In all, there are more than 600 people whom the prosecution will say are victims of the offense. Brooks is specifically facing charges relating to the alleged hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s mobile phone as are a number of the other former journalists. The full list of charges can be read here. In total, eight people learned they would be charged today, while the CPS found insufficient evidence in the case of three other suspects. Decisions regarding two other suspects were deferred.
UPDATE, 8:37 AM: David Cameron began the afternoon session at Leveson by immediately clarifying hesitant and vague comments he’d made earlier about his relationship with Rebekah Brooks. Noting that his wife keeps excellent diaries, he said he was only at his country residence, just down the road from Brooks, every six weeks in 2008 & 2009 and even less than that in 2010. Once that was handled, questioning turned to the BSKyB bid and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s role in it.
Cameron has vociferously defended Hunt, refusing to refer him to an independent probe on ministerial conduct. That’s despite revelations of a close relationship between Hunt’s and James Murdoch’s offices and his public support of the bid before being given oversight of it. When Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of his responsibility in the bid, after he was caught by undercover reporters saying he’d declared “war on Murdoch,” Hunt was installed to replace him. Although the affair was turned around in an afternoon, Cameron insisted, “It was not a rushed, botched decision.” It also recently came to light that on the same day, Downing Street had received legal advice that remarks made by Hunt could be seen as “prejudging the issues.” Cameron told the inquiry, “If anyone had told me that Jeremy Hunt couldn’t do the job, I wouldn’t have given him the job.”
PREVIOUS, 6:06 AM: Toeing a familiar line, UK Prime Minister David Cameron today denied he ever had an “overt” or a “covert” deal with the Murdochs in exchange for their newspapers’ support. The PM also added that he didn’t believe in “wink and nod deals” and shot down the idea that the Conservative Party and Murdoch’s UK press arm News International got together and plotted an exchange to pass News Corp’s BSkyB bid.
The morning session of the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethichs – which Cameron himself convened last year – got off to a slow start with counsel Robert Jay lobbing softballs at the relaxed politician. Increasingly, however, Cameron appeared frustrated by questions about his relationships with the Murdochs and former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks – along with a pretty damning text message – and his hiring of former News Of The World editor Andy Coulson as his communications director.
On his relationship with Brooks, who is now facing charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice related to the phone-hacking scandal, Cameron was somewhat vague. The two had known each other for some time before she started dating Cameron’s Oxfordshire neighbor Charlie Brooks, but he said their relationship grew after she became engaged to and moved in with Brooks, “a few miles down the road.” When queried as to how often they saw each other, Cameron said, “It’s very difficult because I don’t have a record and I don’t want to give you an [inaccurate] answer… Sometimes quite a bit… Definitely once she started going out with Charlie… I was definitely seeing her more often. Charlie and I play tennis so… ”
This is shaping up to be a big week at the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics: Several high-level politicians are set to take the stand, offering evidence on the relationship between government and big media. Off to a roaring start today with a game of “he said-he said”, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the hearing room that there was no evidence of a phone conversation between he and Rupert Murdoch in September of 2009. During the disputed call, Brown is alleged to have threatened the mogul. He also took shots at Murdoch’s News International and its former executive chairman, James Murdoch, who Brown said drove an “aggressive public agenda.” He further contradicted testimony given by former Murdoch lieutenant Rebekah Brooks, and said he had never been influenced by Rupert Murdoch. If he had suported Murdoch’s policies, Brown quipped, the UK wouldn’t be part of the European Union, England would be the 51st state of the U.S. — with Scotland the 52nd — and Murdoch “probably would have had us at war with France and Germany.”
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said he won’t launch a probe into whether Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt breached the ministerial code of conduct for Hunt’s part in overseeing News Corp’s ultimately failed bid for BSkyB. Hunt has been in the spotlight for his supposed close ties to News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch and son James, which raised eyebrows when he was handed a quasi-judicial role overseeing the $14B bid for the 61% of BSkyB that News Corp didn’t already own. During Hunt’s testimony today before the Leveson Inquiry charged with investigating UK media ethics, it was revealed he texted his congratulations to James Murdoch in December 2010 after News Corp’s bid cleared a regulatory hurdle. “Congratulations on Brussels,” Hunt texted to Murdoch after the European Commission ruled it would not block a deal. “Only Ofcom to go.” Not long after, Hunt was appointed the government overseer of the bid, which was scrapped in July as the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp-owned tabloid News Of The World erupted. Hunt told the inquiry today he would not have sent the text if he had known he was getting the overseer role. After watching Hunt today, Cameron said the Culture Minister acted “properly” throughout the period he was responsible for the bid.
Scottish police have arrested and charged Andy Coulson, the former communications chief of British Prime Minister David Cameron and former editor of News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid, of committing perjury before the High Court in Glasgow, the Wall Street Journal reports. Coulson was taken to Scotland for questioning about his testimony at the perjury trial of former Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan in 2010. On the witness stand in that case, Coulson denied there was a culture of phone hacking at News of the World during his tenure. The paper alleged Sheridan had visited a swingers’ club. Sheridan was convicted of perjury and recently got out of prison.