Just days before embattled pop icon Michael Jackson is expected to enter a not-guilty plea to charges of child molestation, his legal team has undergone a significant shake-up.
Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman, the two high-profile attorneys who had been handling Jackson's case, stepped down over the weekend. The full details on what led to the change have not been released, but Brafman told The Associated Press that the move was "based on recent developments and discussions with various persons in the Jackson camp."
In a statement released on Monday (April 26), Jackson said that the decision was one that he "personally made" and that he "terminated" the two attorneys. "It is imperative that I have the full attention of those who are representing me," Jackson said. "My life is at stake. Therefore, I must feel confident that my interests are of the highest priority. I am innocent of these false charges, and will aggressively seek to clear my name. I feel very confident that when I am able to defend myself, I will be exonerated by a jury of my peers."
Concurrent with the Jackson case, Geragos has also been defending Scott Peterson on charges that he murdered his pregnant wife, Laci.
According to Jackson's camp, Geragos and Brafman have been replaced by Thomas Mesereau Jr., who most recently represented actor Robert Blake in his murder case.
Jackson is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday in Santa Barbara Superior Court after a grand jury handed down an indictment last week (see "Grand Jury Indicts Michael Jackson"). The scope and exact nature of the charges are not yet known.
Once again, Jackson has announced that he will provide free round-trip bus travel from Los Angeles for fans wishing to make the trek for his arraignment.
For full coverage of the Michael Jackson case, see "Michael Jackson Accused."
[This story was updated on 04.26.2004 at 5:27 p.m. ET]