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Former Murdoch Editor Facing Criminal Charges In Hacking Scandal

The first top editor from Rupert Murdoch's U.K. tabloids to face criminal charges related to the hacking scandal that has rocked his media empire is Rebekah Brooks, who prosecutors allege tried to "pervert the course of justice" last year by seeking to cover up what had been going on at Murdoch's News of the World.

Rebekah Brooks, last Friday in London.

Rebekah Brooks, last Friday in London. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

As NPR's Philip Reeves reminds our Newscast Desk, before resigning from the company last summer after the scandal broke, Brooks was chief executive at News International, which runs Murdoch's British newspapers. She also in the past was editor of News of the World.

News of the charges against her — three separate allegations that carry maximum sentences of live imprisonment — emerged earlier today in London.

Even before the announcement, Brooks and her husband (who also faces charges related to the alleged coverup) were attacking the prosecutor's decision.

"We deplore this weak and unjust decision. After the further unprecedented posturing of the [prosecution office] we will respond later today after our return from the police station," the couple said in a statement, according to The Guardian.

The hacking scandal, you may recall, exploded last summer as it was revealed that News of the World had hacked into the phone of a missing teenage girl — who later turned out to be a murder victim. Those misdeeds at one point gave the girl's parents hope that their daughter might still be alive, because News of the World deleted some of her voicemails.

As authorities looked into that case, it emerged that News of the World had been hacking into the phones of British celebrities, politicians and even members of the royal family. Murdoch shut down the tabloid, but the scandal has spread to other News Corp. properties in the U.K. There's also been evidence of payments to politicians and police officials.

There's a Reuters timeline of the scandal's early days here.

Along with Brooks and her husband Charlie, four of her former assistants also face charges.

Philip Reeves reporting for the NPR Newscast

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