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AT&T-Time Warner Merger Approved By Federal Judge

Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court in D.C. says the deal does not violate antitrust law

(CNN) -- A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that AT&T can move forward with its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said at a hearing that he has found, after a six-week trial, that the deal does not violate antitrust law and can proceed.

Leon discouraged the government from asking him to put his own ruling on hold pending appeal, and said that if asked he would deny a stay. "I hope the government has the wisdom and courage" not to seek a stay, he said.

The Justice Department, which had sued to block the purchase, has the option of appealing the decision. According to a scheduling order, AT&T has agreed not to complete the acquisition for six days to allow time for an appeal.

Makan Delrahim, the Justice Department's top antitrust official, said the government was disappointed in the ruling and would "consider next steps."

"We continue to believe that the pay-TV market will be less competitive and less innovative as a result of the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner," he said in a statement.

The judge's ruling will likely be seen by tech and telecom giants as a green light to pursue a slew of major media acquisitions.

(PHOTO: brianajackson/Thinkstock)

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