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Jackson replacing lawyers

APRIL 26, 2004

LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson is replacing high-profile attorneys Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman in his child molestation case, the lawyers told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The pop superstar's new lawyer will be Thomas Mesereau Jr., another well-known criminal defense attorney who represented actor Robert Blake in his murder case until they recently parted company, citing irreconcilable differences.

"Based on recent developments and discussions with various persons in the Jackson camp, it became clear that it would be best if Mark and I decided to step down," Brafman said. "And that's what we elected to do."

Asked why, Brafman said, "For reasons we choose not to discuss publicly."

He added, "We both wish Michael well."

Mesereau, reached as he was leaving Florida after meeting there with Jackson, declined to comment immediately but said he would speak late Sunday or early Monday.

Jackson's spokeswoman, Raymone K. Bain, said she was unaware of the change when asked about it by a reporter.

Geragos, who was in Northern California handling the Scott Peterson murder case on Sunday, said he, Brafman and Mesereau will notify Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville of the substitution of counsel during a conference call Monday. He declined to discuss reasons for the change.

Dana Cole, an attorney who has worked closely with Mesereau on cases including Blake's, said Mesereau was approached by Jackson soon after he was charged with child molestation. He said Mesereau was unwilling to take the case at the time because he was tied up with the Blake case.

He said Mesereau would represent Jackson at a pretrial hearing where the singer is expected to be arraigned.

"Michael Jackson has always been very impressed with the pro bono work and contributions Tom has made in the African-American community," Cole said.

Santa Barbara District Attorney Thomas Sneddon had no comment, said Jason Karpf of Tellem Worldwide, a firm handling media inquiries for Sneddon in the Jackson case.

Jackson's case moved into a new phase last week when a grand jury secretly indicted him on child molestation charges. Contents of the indictment are not yet known and will be disclosed at his arraignment.

Jackson, 45, was originally charged with seven counts of lewd or lascivious conduct involving a child under 14 and with administering an intoxicant, reportedly wine, to a child under 14.

The indictment means that a grand jury has decided there is probable cause to hold Jackson for trial.

Jackson is free on $3 million bail and recently has been staying at a Florida compound with his children. – Sapa-AP

Related links stories
Reports: Jackson indicted by grand jury on child molestation charges [22/04/2004]




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