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Michael Jackson replaces lead attorneys
Updated: 2004-04-26 09:21

Pop star Michael Jackson's two lead attorneys, defending him in a child molestation case, have quit just days after the embattled entertainer was indicted by a grand jury, one of the attorneys told Reuters on Sunday.

Michael Jackson is shown after a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 31, 2004. [AP]
Attorney Benjamin Brafman, the New York criminal attorney specially hired by Jackson to represent him, said he and attorney Mark Geragos were stepping down, but would not give a reason why.

"Mark and I elected to step down. There were a number of complicated legal and practical issues ... but it's not appropriate for us to discuss them. I wish Michael Jackson well ... and I hope he will be completely exonerated," Brafman told Reuters.

Both Brafman and Geragos, who is also representing accused Californian wife-killer Scott Peterson in a trial starting next month, still plan to appear at a hearing on Friday during which Jackson is expected to enter a "not guilty" plea to the indictment handed down last week by the Santa Barbara grand jury, Brafman said.

Geragos, reached by phone, would not comment on the case, saying he was under protective order.

A source familiar with the case told Reuters that the two attorneys will be replaced by another high-profile criminal attorney, Thomas Mesereau, Jr, who represented actor Robert Blake in his murder case.

Mesereau and Blake recently stopped working together, citing irreconcilable differences.

A spokeswoman for Jackson was unaware of the changes and had no immediate comment.

Dana Cole, another Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who has worked with Mesereau and was a co-counsel on the Blake case representing Blake's bodyguard, said: "Jackson wanted to hire Tom in the first place." Mesereau was tied up with the Blake case so "Mesereau had to pass," he said.

Cole said Mesereau flew to Florida on Saturday and spoke at length with Jackson on Sunday about representing him.

On Friday, Jackson, bristling at photographers "lurking behind bushes" at his rented Florida mansion following his indictment, pleaded with the media to leave him alone.

Jackson, in seclusion at the 12-bedroom central Florida estate of time-share magnate David Siegel while he awaits an arraignment, asked for privacy in a written statement posted on his website.

Because Santa Barbara County prosecutors went to great lengths to keep the grand jury secret and the indictment was sealed, little is known about the exact nature of the charges.

But the grand jury was known to be probing the same accusations that led to charges against Jackson last December: seven counts of lewd acts on a child under 14 and two counts of plying the boy with alcohol in order to seduce him.

The departure of Jackson's two high profile lawyers is expected to further delay the case, which already had not been expected to go to trial until the end of 2004.

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