James Desborough, the Los Angeles-based U.S. editor of the News of the World, was arrested Thursday by police investigating the phone-hacking scandal at the paper — becoming the first U.S.-based journalist arrested in the case.
After arriving for questioning at a south London police station, he was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to unlawfully intercept voicemails. He was later released on bail.
His arrest was the 13th in the case.
The charges do not allege any hacking in the U.S. But the arrest raises questions about whether Desborough's alleged involvement would have taken place only prior to his appointment to the L.A. job in April 2009 — or could have continued after.
Desborough, 38, was given the position less than a month after winning the British Press Award for showbusiness reporter of the year, the Guardian reported. At the ceremony, he was praised by judges for "uncompromising scoops which mean no celebrity with secrets can sleep easy."
Desborough wrote for the News Corp.'s News of the World until it closed last month, and was among reporters who followed Prince William and Kate Middleton on their recent trip to Los Angeles. His last story for the online version of the paper, according to the Guardian, was on July 8, two days before it shut down due to the scandal. He claimed the new Duchess of Cambridge was to act in a Hollywood movie.
It was the second time this week the scandal has affected a former U.S.-based News Corp. employee.
On Tuesday, British Parliament released a 2006 letter in which a News of the World journalist jailed for phone hacking said the practice was "widely discussed" at the paper's editorial meetings.
The Guardian said former Dow Jones CEO and Wall Street Journal publisher Les Hinton had seen the letter, but did not report it to police. Hinton later testified to Parliament that he believed Goodman acted alone and that he had received no evidence to the contrary.
At the same time it released the letter, Parliament said it would write to Hinton and other former News Corp. employees to ask if they wished to amend or expand on their past testimony.
Hinton resigned last month, saying he thought it proper to do so even though he was "ignorant" of any widespread hacking.
Though there has been no solid evidence of phone hacking by News Corp. employees in the U.S., an anonymously sourced story said a private detective was approached about hacking 9/11 victims.
The FBI is investigating whether phones were hacked in the U.S., and the Journal reported last month that the Justice Department was preparing subpoenas to look into whether News Corp. employeees bribed foreign officials and hacked into 9/11 victims' phones.
But the paper said senior Justice Department officials needed to approve issuing the subpoenas, which hadn't yet happened as of last month.