LOS ANGELES -- Michael Jackson is replacing high-profile lawyers Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman in his child molestation case, the lawyers said yesterday.
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."
''I'll have no comment on the developments until I appear in court Friday," Mesereau said yesterday, referring to a pretrial hearing where Jackson is expected to be arraigned.
Raymone K. Bain, Jackson's spokeswoman, 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 yesterday, said he, Brafman, and Mesereau will notify Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville of the substitution of counsel during a conference call today. He declined to discuss reasons for the change.
Dana Cole, a lawyer who has worked closely with Mesereau, 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.
Santa Barbara District Attorney Thomas Sneddon had no comment, said Jason Karpf of Tellem Worldwide, a firm handling media inquiries for Sneddon.