Murdoch foam pie attacker jailed for six weeks

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A protester who threw a shaving foam pie at Rupert Murdoch as the media mogul was questioned by lawmakers about phone hacking was jailed for six weeks by a British court on Tuesday.

Jonathan May-Bowles, 26, a stand-up comic who calls himself Jonnie Marbles, was jailed after pleading guilty to assaulting Murdoch as the 80-year-old was answering questions at a parliamentary hearing last month.

The incident provided a bizarre interlude in a crisis which has rocked Britain and shaken Murdoch's News Corp. empire.

Some of the foam on a paper plate hit Murdoch's suit jacket despite the efforts of his Chinese-born wife Wendi Deng, who leapt up and aimed a slap at May-Bowles' face as he rushed from the public gallery.

Sentencing May-Bowles at City of Westminster Magistrates Court in London, District Judge Daphne Wickham said: "You attended with only one objective in mind, which was to disrupt proceedings.

"You came to hold to account the victim, you assaulted him by lunging towards him with this plate of white foam."

The judge said the highly charged parliamentary hearing, which was "of huge importance", had been conducted with "dignity" until May-Bowles' attack.

May-Bowles admitted assault and causing harassment, alarm or distress.

Defence lawyer Tim Greaves pointed to the "slapstick nature" of the act, saying it was intended as a "lighthearted" protest.

"Slapstick and the throwing of pies dates back to the 1900s as a recognised form of protest," he told the court.

Greaves said May-Bowles wanted to express his "sense of disgust" at the phone hacking-scandal.

"He wished to make a statement about how he felt and how he believed the British public felt about the whole affair," he added.

The judge ordered May-Bowles to serve only half of the six-week sentence. He must also pay a total of £265 ($430, 305 euros) in costs.

His lawyer said he would appeal the sentence.

Murdoch and his son James had been answering questions from lawmakers on the phone-hacking scandal at the News Corp.-owned News of the World, which was closed down on July 7 amid public outrage.

The Australian-born media magnate shut down the tabloid -- Britain's top-selling Sunday newspaper -- after it was revealed it had hacked into the voicemail of a 13-year-old girl who was later found dead.

Private investigators working for the paper are also believed to have targeted the relatives of other child murder victims and tried to access the voicemails of the relatives of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

On his way into court, May-Bowles sent a Twitter message saying: "Sentencing today. I'm sure my punishment will be every bit as fair and proportionate as the one Murdoch received. Oh, hang on..."

Murdoch has faced no criminal action over the phone-hacking scandal, although top executives who worked for the News of the World have been arrested and questioned.

Police on Tuesday detained News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner in the latest arrest linked to the scandal, which has also forced Murdoch to drop his bid for full control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

© 2011 AFP

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