Following the weekend news that Michael Jackson fired his two lead defense attorneys, Benjamin Brafman and Mark Geragos, now comes word that the star is also showing the door to members of the radical Nation of Islam.
ABC News reports that Jackson, 45 – who is due to be arraigned on Friday following last week’s Santa Barbara County grand jury indictment on a new charge – will be accompanied by a private, low-profile security force rather than by members of the high-profile Nation of Islam.
Jackson’s purpose in switching security agents is reportedly to promote a new public image. He also will be joined Friday by his new attorney, Robert Blake’s former lawyer, Thomas Mesereau Jr.
In December, Jackson was charged with seven counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under 14, and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent (believed to be wine) to the boy. The star, who is currently free on $3 million bail, has called the charges a “big lie.”
Last week’s grand jury charges remain sealed but will be revealed at Friday’s arraignment.
Speaking to Good Morning America earlier this week, Brafman, who is still bound to a gag order placed by the judge in the case, said of Jackson: “I don’t wish him any harm. 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.”
On the subject of Jackson’s finances, which have also been making news, Jackson’s trusted investment adviser Charles Koppelman, defended the pop star, telling USA Today: “Everything’s in good shape. He’s in no financial straits as far as I’m concerned.”
Earlier this year, there were estimates that Jackson’s outstanding loans were as high as $250 million, with the star reportedly owing a balloon payment of $70 million. Koppleman says the debt has been consolidated and Jackson took advantage of then-lower interest rates.
“We’re basically finished with the refinancing that needed to get done,” says Koppleman. “That’s the bottom line.”