News Corp reporter at centre of Pitt/Jolie lawsuit

James Desborough, a News Corp reporter arrested on Thursday in a spreading phone hacking scandal, was no...

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James Desborough, a News Corp reporter arrested on Thursday in a spreading phone hacking scandal, was no stranger to controversy when he led News of the World's Hollywood bureau.

Police said they had arrested a 38-year-old man on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, and a source with knowledge of the situation identified the individual as Desborough.

It was the 13th arrest this year in an inquiry that has rocked News of the World's parent company, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, and has had far-reaching implications for the establishment.

U.S. agencies are investigating whether News of the World's phone-hacking activities extended to the United States. So far, they have disclosed no evidence that they did.

Desborough could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Daisy Dunlop, a spokeswoman for News International, News Corp's British newspaper arm, told Reuters the company was "cooperating fully with the police" and could not comment further due to the investigation.

A source familiar with the situation said Desborough was being questioned by British police about activities that occurred before he moved in 2009 to Los Angeles, where he was an editor.

His U.S. stories have aroused controversy, although there has been no allegation of illegal activity.

A Desborough story in the recently shuttered British tabloid said actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were about to split. The couple sued News Corp, won an apology and settlement, and News of the World publicly acknowledged the story was wrong.

Shortly before Murdoch closed the tabloid last month, Desborough wrote a story about the alleged sexual activities of movie star and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. A Schwarzenegger spokesman called the story false.

According to the story, the information on Schwarzenegger came from a dossier compiled by disgraced Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano, who is now serving a prison sentence for illegal wiretapping.


Desborough joined News of the World in 2005 as a show business and news reporter and was promoted to U.S. editor, based in Los Angeles, in 2009. He worked for News of the World until it closed.

The arrest occurred after he arrived at a south London police station on Thursday morning by appointment.

Desborough won the British Press Awards showbiz reporter of the year award in 2009. After moving to Los Angeles, he wrote a story in January 2010 saying Pitt and Jolie agreed to divide their fortune equally and share their children.

The story cited an unidentified source who described a legal document signed by the couple that would govern the breakup.

The couple said the claims were false and demanded a retraction of the story. News of the World settled for an undisclosed sum.

"We now accept that our story was wrong and apologise to Brad and Angelina," the paper wrote in July 2010.

An attorney for the couple could not be reached for comment.

After news broke in May that Schwarzenegger fathered a child with his maid, Desborough wrote a story detailing Schwarzenegger's alleged taste in women.

News of the World story attributed its reporting to a "bombshell dossier" put together by Pellicano.

"These are absurd tabloid reports that are totally false," a spokesman for Schwarzenegger said of the News of the World story.

It is unclear how Desborough obtained the alleged documents. Pellicano was sentenced to 15 years in prison at the end of 2008, before Desborough took up his posting in Los Angeles.

The story also quoted an investigator who worked for Pellicano, but did not name that person.

In an jailhouse interview with Newsweek earlier this month, Pellicano said he had "personal stuff" on Schwarzenegger but did not say whether he knew about Schwarzenegger's child with the maid.