The ruling represents a major defeat for Durham and the Department of Justice prosecutors, who have spent three years looking for irregularities in the Trump and Russia investigation. Sussman allegedly lied during a 2016 meeting in which he advised the FBI about Donald Trump and Russia.
The Washington, D.C., federal jury deliberated for six hours over two days before reaching its verdict.
A juror told CNN that the jury initially did not agree with a verdict when they got the case on Friday afternoon. During deliberations, however, the juror said, all 12 jurors agreed that the Durham team had not met the five legal conditions needed to convict Sussman.
Sussman’s lawyers have repeatedly reinforced the element of “materiality,” which requires prosecutors to prove that Sussman’s alleged lie was relevant enough to potentially affect the work of the FBI.
Four additional jurors declined to comment on the ruling.
There was a sigh audible from the Sussman family after the foreman of the jury pronounced the verdict of innocence. After walking out of the courtroom, Sussman’s wife, Dr. Durham remained in the courtroom for a few minutes after it was mostly emptied.
“This is an unusual prosecution case,” defense attorneys Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth said in a statement. “And we believe today’s ruling sends an unmistakable message to anyone who cares to listen: Politics is no substitute for evidence, and politics has no place in our system of justice.”
Sussman spoke to the press outside the courtroom and thanked the jury, saying he was eager to get through this ordeal and return to his job as a cybersecurity attorney.
“I told the truth to the FBI, and the jury clearly recognized that in its collective verdict today,” Sussman said. “…Even though I was falsely accused, I am relieved that justice ultimately prevailed in my case.”
Durham said in a statement that he was “disappointed” with the ruling.
“While we are disappointed with the outcome, we respect the jury’s decision and thank them for their services,” Durham said in a statement. “I would also like to acknowledge and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for their dedicated efforts in the search for truth and justice in this case.”
Durham investigation dealt a blow
So far, Durham’s work has led to only one conviction: a guilty plea for a junior FBI attorney who was involved in a wiretapping order on a former 2016 Trump campaign adviser. .
The Sussman case was the first major courtroom test for Durham, and the acquittal ruling has bolstered Durham’s critics, who believe it is conducting a politicized investigation into flimsy theories.
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN reporter Hana Rabinovitch contributed to this report.