April 26, 2004 -- In an exclusive interview with ABCNEWS, Michael Jackson's newly fired attorney said the "King of Pop" was unwise to drop his high-profile legal team, but believes his former client has a chance for acquittal in his child molestation case.
Jackson fired Benjamin Brafman, along with Mark Geragos, over the weekend, just days before his scheduled arraignment in a Santa Barbara Court on grand jury charges.
Brafman, who won an acquittal for Sean "P. Diddy" Combs on bribery and weapons charges in 2001, criticized Jackson's decision, saying he and Geragos — who is representing Scott Peterson in the slayings of his wife Laci and their unborn son — have proven records.
In their place, Jackson's hired Thomas Mesereau Jr., who represented actor Robert Blake in his murder case until the two parted over irreconcilable differences.
In his exclusive interview with Good Morning America, Brafman — who was recently hired as an ABCNEWS legal consultant — declined to give specifics about the firing, but said the parting had been coming for some time.
"It was a combination of factors, and I don't think it is appropriate to discuss the actual dialogue that brought about the decision," he said. "It was a decision that sort of has been happening over time, and I think at the end of the day it is probably better that it is resolved this way."
Brafman said he wishes Jackson well and that the pop star has a real chance to win an acquittal.
"I don't wish him any harm," Brafman said. "To the contrary, I hope he wins this case. I think he has every chance to win this case. I think the [legal] team has to understand that it is not business as usual. They have to be focused."
Jackson, 45, faces seven counts of performing a lewd act upon a child for alleged inappropriate conduct with a now-14-year-old cancer survivor who spent time at his Neverland ranch.
Last week, a grand jury hearing evidence in the legendary performer's child molestation case decided to indict him, but the specific charges have not been revealed publicly.
Ignoring Track Record of Success
While the decision to fire his legal team days ahead of a scheduled arraignment on Friday may raise eyebrows, Brafman said Jackson's new legal counsel should be ready for trial when the judge sets a date.
"There are two views: one that it is late, one that it is early," Brafman said. "The indictment is a formality, and if the lawyer who comes in knows what he's doing, he should be ready to try this case when the judge suggests."
But, added Brafman, "I don't think it is a good idea to change lawyers when, A: they are doing a good job and, two, they have a proven record of success."
Brafman said there is no tension between him and Jackson and rejected speculation that friction with members of the Nation of Islam working in Jackson's camp led to his dismissal.
Brafman also denied the rift was caused by the spectacle surrounding Jackson's case — highlighted by Jackson's modest dance step on top of an SUV outside the Santa Barbara courthouse following his initial court appearance in January.
‘My Life Is at Stake’
While Brafman sidestepped questions about whether Jackson's brothers Randy and Jermaine and other consultants called for a new legal team, he did suggest the singer has too many people advising him on decisions.
"That's probably a fair observation," he said. "That's not a confidential observation. That's apparent when you see how the camp operates."
However, in a statement released today, Jackson thanked Brafman and Geragos and insisted that he made the final decision to shake up his defense team.
"Contrary to reports, this is a decision that I have personally made," Jackson's said in his statement. "It is imperative that I have the full attention of those who are representing me. 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."
Geragos, who is overseeing jury selection in Peterson's trial, has declined to comment on the firing. Mesereau, who met with Jackson over the weekend in Florida, said he would not talk about his hiring until Jackson appears in court.
The exact charges returned by the grand jury will be revealed publicly when Jackson is arraigned Friday. He remains free on $3 million bail.