The verdict is a major defeat for Durham and his Justice Department prosecutors, who spent three years looking for wrongdoing in the Trump-Russia investigation. He claimed Sussmann lied during a 2016 meeting where he passed on a tip to the FBI about Donald Trump and Russia.
The federal jury in Washington, DC deliberated for six hours over two days before reaching its verdict.
A juror told CNN the jury initially disagreed on a verdict when they received the case on Friday afternoon. But during deliberations, the juror said, all 12 jurors agreed that the Durham team failed to meet the five legal conditions necessary to find Sussmann guilty.
Sussmann’s lawyers repeatedly stressed the “materiality” element, which required prosecutors to prove that Sussmann’s alleged lie was relevant enough to have a potential impact on the work of the FBI.
Four additional jurors declined to comment on the verdict.
There was an audible sigh of relief from Sussmann’s family after the foreman announced the not guilty verdict. After leaving the courtroom, Sussmann’s wife, Dr. Apple Sussmann, said, “Holy cow, that was nerve-wracking.” Durham lingered in the courtroom for a few minutes after it was largely cleared.
“This is a case of extraordinary overreach,” defense attorneys Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth said in a statement. “And we believe today’s verdict sends an unequivocal message to anyone willing to listen: Politics is no substitute for evidence, and politics has no place in our justice system.”
Sussmann addressed the press outside the courthouse and thanked the jury, and said he was looking forward to getting out of this ordeal and getting back to his job as a cybersecurity lawyer.
“I told the FBI the truth, and the jury clearly acknowledged it with their unanimous verdict today,” Sussmann said. “…Although I have been falsely accused, I am relieved that justice has finally prevailed in my case.”
Durham said in a statement he was “disappointed” with the verdict.
“While we are disappointed with the outcome, we respect the jury’s decision and thank them for their service,” Durham said in a statement. “I also want to acknowledge and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for their dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case.”
Durham investigation takes a hit
So far, Durham’s work has led to only one conviction: the guilty plea of a junior FBI attorney involved in a wiretap warrant against a former Trump 2016 campaign adviser. Durham has also indicted a Russian expat linked to the infamous Steele case, whose trial is scheduled for October.
The Sussmann case was the first major courtroom test for Durham, and the acquittal could bolster critics of Durham, who believe he is conducting a politicized investigation into flimsy theories.
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz contributed to this report.