Even before his dealings with the King of Pop, Mark Geragos ranked among the biggies of high-profile defense lawyers. He's one of Hollywood's legal leading men and a go-to guy for well-known criminal defendants of the magnitude of Scott Peterson.
In taking on Michael Jackson's case, though, Geragos has catapulted himself to another stratosphere in the universe of celebrity lawyers — the universe occupied by the likes of O.J. Simpson's "Dream Team" members Johnnie Cochran, Alan Dershowitz and F. Lee Bailey.
"It has been a natural progression of very high-profile cases for [Geragos]," said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola University law professor. "He's off on an international level now. I'm not sure you can take it much higher."
On Thursday, Geragos was the public face of the beleaguered pop star, speaking to a worldwide audience after Jackson was marched handcuffed into the Santa Barbara County, Calif., jail. "He considers this to be a big lie," Geragos said.
It's a performance for which Geragos has apparently prepared. ABC News has learned that for the last several months, while making headlines defending Peterson in one of the most high-profile murder cases of the decade, Geragos has quietly been working for Jackson on this case in advance of child molestation allegations.
Geragos' roster of big-publicity cases goes back years, and he is well-known for his media savvy and bravado. Geragos has been a showy advocate of his clients outside the courtroom as well as inside.
When a jury acquitted his client Susan McDougal of obstruction of justice in Ken Starr's Whitewater investigation in 1999, Geragos had nasty things to say about the independent counsel.
"This guy should pack up and get out of here," Geragos said. "I'm happy to be the one, along with Susan, to wish him bon voyage. But get the heck out of Arkansas, and do it now. Nobody wants to see you."
Ryder, Downey Were Clients
Geragos also defended former President Clinton's brother Roger in a drunken driving case. He represented the actor and repeat defendant Robert Downey Jr. on drug charges.
Geragos won a dismissal of charges of felony kidnapping, arson and criminal threats against hip-hop star Nathaniel Hale, also known as Nate Dogg. And he once represented Gary Condit, the former California congressman who was romantically linked to the late Washington intern Chandra Levy.
But his courtroom record on high-profile cases is mixed. Last year, most prominently, Geragos was unable to win an acquittal for actress Winona Ryder on felony shoplifting charges.
When Geragos is not in the media spotlight as a defense attorney, he is often playing the role of talking head on cable programs, spouting off about other high-profile cases. Earlier this year, Geragos found himself on national television talking about evidence against Peterson in the deaths of his wife, Laci, and their unborn son.
On TV, Geragos declared that the evidence against Peterson was devastating and that any defense attorney would have a tough time saving him from the death penalty. He even went so far as to say: "It's a damning, circumstantial case. The man is a sociopath if he did this crime."
Weeks later, Geragos announced that he was taking on Peterson's case, and distanced himself from his earlier public comments about his new client. "Maybe I was one of the media pundits who jumped on a bunch of misleading information and convicted the guy," Geragos said last April when he took Peterson's case.
Juggling Two Big Cases
On Tuesday, after a preliminary hearing, a judge ruled that Peterson must stand trial on two counts of murder. But that means the closely watched case is on hiatus until Dec. 3, and Geragos has time to fit in the circus now surrounding Michael Jackson, who turned himself in on Thursday to face charges of child molestation.
Or does he?
While it may seem unwieldy for even a high-powered lawyer to take on two of America's most famous criminal cases, Geragos has some help in a gaggle of lawyers working behind the scenes, Levenson said. And just because Geragos is visible in Jackson's case right now, that does not mean he would necessarily represent him if the case goes to trial.
For Geragos' career path, there probably isn't much a downside to taking Jackson's case, Levenson said. "People who don't like him from [the Peterson case] might have that spill over to their feelings about Michael Jackson. Maybe they think he's a promoter, how can we trust him. But it hasn't hurt other lawyers to be high-profile."
And those who know Geragos say the fame won't change him or the way he practices law. "To me he's still a down-to-earth lawyer. He gets that from his father," said Harland Braun, another high-profile defense lawyer and friend of Geragos. "His father is an old-time criminal defense lawyer, and his father understands that popularity is not our goal."
As a young boy, Geragos and his brother spent hours at the courthouse where their father worked. In 1982, after graduating from Loyola Law School, Geragos joined his father's Los Angeles law firm. He still works with his father and brother.
Of Armenian descent, Geragos has remained active in his community, especially in the local Armenian church. And even as he takes a center role in the nation's most salacious criminal cases, his community proudly claims him.
"Every time I see him, whether it's Michael Jackson or other cases, I'm very proud," said former Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, who has known Geragos since he was a boy. "And I say, 'one of my boys made it.'"
ABCNEWS' Cynthia McFadden contributed to this report.