Judge John Sanders issued his ruling before Brooks' defense made its opening statement Thursday, ordering the jury to find Brooks not guilty on the charge she unlawfully authorized payment to a public official for a photograph of Prince William while she was editor of the British tabloid the Sun, the Guardian reported.
"There is no case to answer for Mrs. Brooks ... [on] the charge relating to the picture of Prince William in a bikini that was acquired by the Sun," said Saunders. "It's for you to bring in a verdict of not guilty on that count now."
Brooks still faces four charges, including an allegation of unlawful payments to public officials for stories when she was the Sun's editor. She pleaded not guilty to all charges, which include a charge of conspiracy to hack phones and two charges of obstruction.
In his opening statement Thursday, Brooks' attorney Jonathan Laidlaw said his client wasn't on trial for her tabloid's strategy nor because she worked for media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the Guardian said.
"She is not being tried because she was the editor of a tabloid newspaper," Laidlaw said. "Neither is she on trial for having worked for Rupert Murdoch's company or for having worked her way up through the organization."
Laidlaw also said Brooks also wasn't on trial for her personal political views, "[nor] is she to be judged for the support her newspapers gave to one party or another."