Michael Jackson has a long road ahead of him, but he's got "arguably the hottest defense lawyer of the moment" who is "seemingly unbeatable" along for the ride.
That's how legal newspaper the Los Angeles Daily Journal and the Los Angeles Times recently described Mark Geragos, the lawyer Jackson selected to defend him against new child molestation charges (see "Michael Jackson Wanted On Multiple Counts Of Child Molestation").
Similar to the colorful Johnnie Cochran — Jackson's attorney when similar charges surfaced 10 years ago — Geragos is a flamboyant lawyer with multiple high-profile cases on his résumé. Geragos first got word of the raid at Neverland on November 18 while he was in a pretrial hearing for one of his other clients, Scott Peterson.
Before taking on tabloid favorite Peterson — a Modesto, California, man charged with murdering his pregnant wife last year — Geragos defended Winona Ryder against shoplifting charges. Other past clients include Gary Condit, Roger Clinton and Nate Dogg. He is a legal consultant for MSNBC, FOX News and CNN and has made numerous television talk show appearances.
In other words, Geragos is a celebrity defending another celebrity. This could benefit Jackson, who alone has the potential to sway jurors with his presence. Or it could hurt the singer, as Geragos has reputation for "floating far-fetched defense theories," as the New York Times put it.
One thing is certain: Like Jackson, Geragos has experience working under the focus of an enormous spotlight.
The 45-year-old Loyola Law School and Haverford College graduate has been practicing criminal law since 1983 and is a partner, along with father Paul Geragos, in a small Los Angeles firm known for defending Armenian-Americans.
Geragos came to prominence in the late '90s when he defended Susan McDougal, the jailed Whitewater defendant accused of obstructing justice during the Bill Clinton presidency. He not only won her acquittal in two trials — one unrelated to Whitewater — but he negotiated her presidential pardon.
The attorney went on to represent Clinton's brother, Roger, against drunk-driving charges, convincing a judge to dismiss all alcohol-related charges.
In early 2001 Geragos won a dismissal of kidnapping, domestic abuse, battery and terrorist threats charges against Nate Dogg (see "Five Of Six Charges Against Nate Dogg Dropped"). Later that year he came to the defense of Condit, the former congressman suspected of killing Washington intern Chandra Levy but never charged.
He lost the Ryder case last year but gained considerable exposure in the press, something he denies enjoying.
Some Jackson fans have expressed concern that Geragos will be too sidetracked with Peterson to adequately defend the singer, but the workaholic — who is also in the middle of a Los Angeles murder trial — insists he is capable.
"It is not much different than what I normally do except there is more dealing with the media," Geragos told the Los Angeles Times. (He did not return calls to MTV News by press time.) "There's a reason I get up in the morning and run three to six miles every day and lift weights at night. If you're a trial lawyer, it doesn't get much better than this."
Geragos, who was recently named Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Los Angeles Criminal Courts Bar Association, also told the newspaper Peterson's mother is "happy for Michael Jackson that he gets to have [me] defend him also."
Aside from his courtroom experience, Geragos is an entrepreneur of sorts. In recent years he's launched several Web sites relating to the law or finance, including MagnaBand.net, TheJusticeSystem.net, VoteAcrossAmerica.com and ItsAboutFinance.com.
On Tuesday Geragos obtained a temporary court order barring a charter jet company from airing a videotape of Jackson and Geragos' flight last week from Las Vegas to Santa Barbara (see "Jackson Was Illegally Taped On Charter Flight, Lawyer Says"). Geragos claims the tapes were made without his or Jackson's consent, and he said the incident is just another example of the motivation behind the charges against Jackson.
"Anybody [who] doesn't think based upon what's happened so far that the true motivation of these charges and these allegations is anything but money and the seeking of money is living in their own Neverland," he told reporters. "Michael Jackson is not going to be abused."
Meanwhile, the prosecutor in the case said Tuesday the earliest formal charges will be filed is mid-December, rather than after Thanksgiving, as was originally announced. District Attorney Tom Sneddon (see "Why Is The DA In The Michael Jackson Case Smiling?") said the delay will allow development of a Web site for the posting of court-related information on the case.
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."