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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Michael Jackson Pleads Not Guilty to Charges
Aired January 16, 2004 - 13:54 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Chris Darden, we've been talking all day about parallels or not to O.J. In this sense, the sense that he is a global icon, this transcends O.J. Simpson, doesn't it?
CHRISTOPHER DARDEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And this may very well be the trial of the last two centuries, if, in fact, this case goes to trial. But, you know, when you think of Michael Jackson's media savvy, and the fact that he has been a celebrity for so many years, you just can't help but wonder why he's made the mistakes they've made, in terms of holding this party at 11:00 a.m., on just a couple of minutes here, Pacific Time and the like. I mean, this thing is huge. It's big. It is only going to get bigger.
O'BRIEN: Wow. That puts it in some perspective there, doesn't it? You've got to wonder who has been pulling the strings thus far, as we watch Michael Jackson get into that vehicle there. Oh, look at him, look at him. You talk about playing to the crowd here, folks. I wouldn't be surprised if you saw a moonwalk, Chris Darden. Shall we see it now? Just about. It doesn't get to be more of a circus than that, I don't think, does it?
DARDEN: No, no.
O'BRIEN: All right. We were talking about being contrite at the hall of justice. And I don't see a lot of contrition here. Do you, Chris Darden?
DARDEN: No, I don't see any contrition. Any humility at all. I think this is completely disrespectful, I think, to the court and to the process. I mean, compare and contrast Michael Jackson's conduct and Kobe Bryant's conduct after he was charged in the rape case in Colorado. You've seen nothing from him but dignified conduct. And all the humility you would expect to see from someone charged with a serious felony. And yet we see Michael Jackson standing on the top of his limousine, waving to the crowd and things of that nature. This will not play well in the D.A.'s office.
O'BRIEN: This will be a piece of tape we will see repeatedly, I predict. This will be an image that will sear in our minds. And it looks like he's got a couple of people with some special access to document this whole thing. Is there any aspect of Michael Jackson Inc. That doesn't think about ways to slice, and dice and market Michael Jackson?
DARDEN: Yes, I guess this will be a poster at some point, right? You know, they'll sell a million of them. But he may well be sitting in prison at the same time. You shouldn't do anything to provoke or anger these prosecutors. And I'm sure they and a lot of people in Santa Maria are offended by this.
O'BRIEN: I suspect so.
And you almost expect to see a still image of that on the next album cover.
Gary Tuchman, what are you seeing where you are? You there, Gary?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just a week and a half or so ago, he went on 60 MINUTES and said he was -- quote -- "manhandled so roughly" that he can't raise his arms above a certain level. There, he uses brute strength to pull himself atop the SUV and wave to the crowd.
One other thing I notice as I stand here on the roof right across the street from the vehicle. I remember covering the return of the Veterans from the first Persian Gulf War. And the exaltation we saw then, it's a lot more people, but no different than the exaltation we see today. It's such a different situation. It just seemed sort of surreal to see the same kind of cheering and excitement and tears welling in people's eyes in situation as we saw back when the veterans came back from the first Gulf War.
QUESTION: Was this a planned proceeding out here this reaction?
BENJAMIN BRAFMAN, DEFENSE ATTY.: No, this is a spontaneous outpouring on both sides. This was not planned. I'm in the proceeding and I'm stunned, so this was not planned.
BRAFMAN: But I thought it was kind of...
QUESTION: Were you pleased by what he did?
BRAFMAN: I think the outpouring of love for Michael Jackson is universal. People from Japan and Poland and Australia, I think it's an unprecedented outpouring of love for an entertainer. I've never seen anything like this.
QUESTION: Are you upset that the judge -- that he got off on the wrong foot with the judge?
BRAFMAN: Let me address that when I come back, OK?
O'BRIEN: Jeff Toobin, can you hear me? It's Miles in Atlanta.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I can. Hi, Miles.
O'BRIEN: You can make a case, not just the wrong foot, he's on the wrong roof, and in the wrong county, by doing all that we just witnessed there. TOOBIN: Miles, today was a combination of an ordinary arraignment and perhaps the most bizarre legal proceeding in American history. This -- the scene outside, which is just ending now, of Michael Jackson, you know, whipping up his fans, on one hand. But it was just as peculiar in the courtroom at times. In the courtroom, you had a situation where 60 fans greeted each member of the Jackson family who arrived, with applause, actual applause in the courtroom before the judge took the bench.
O'BRIEN: Jeff Toobin, can you hang on one second. We have Mark Geragos speaking to the reporters there. I want you to standby. Let's listen to Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman.
MARK GERAGOS, DEFENSE ATTY.: We are -- well, I don't know what more to tell you, unless you're going to shut the helicopters off.
I'm extremely pleased at the team that we've assembled. Ben has agreed to come on. Sue Cochran has agreed to come on. Bob Sanger (ph), who's not here, has agreed to come on, and we couldn't be more pleased with this group. We work well together. We like each other, and I think that, ultimately, the results will show that.
BRAFMAN: Good morning. The weather in California today certainly beats the weather in New York today. So I think I made the right decision, and I think today suggests that we have a long haul. We're not permitted to comment on the substance of anything that happened. So we will not. We're not going to get off on the wrong foot and violate the court's gag order.
I think the outpouring of love for Mr. Jackson is sort of extraordinary. And there are people out there from all over the world, so I think it's quite a spontaneous outpouring of support that is nice to see. We look forward to being part of this defense team and I think today, on balance, was a good day.
GERAGOS: were in the court at 8:28. But it was a very good day. As you've seen from around here, the traffic and the gridlock is amazing. I don't know, but my estimate is there's got to be at least 5,000 to 10,000 people that are in the surrounding area.
QUESTION: To him and his family showed up?
GERAGOS: I don't think you ever could have kept his family away.
BRAFMAN: In fairness to Mr. Jackson, I think you have just seen that it takes about 20 minutes to make it 100 yards when you're in Mr. Jackson's company because of the large volume of people. We regret that he was late this morning. We will see to it that that does never happen again, and we apologized to the court for that inconvenience, but in fairness to Mr. Jackson, just getting around this town with the number of media the number of fans and the number of people in this mix, it's extraordinarily difficult for all of us to move. So we regret that he was late and it will not happen again.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea how long it takes to get to trial with this matter? GERAGOS: We haven't seen set a prelim date. Let's talk about that once we get to a prelim.
QUESTION: Hey, Mark, it seemed like the prosecution had been studying the Peterson case all the while.
GERAGOS: That I think would violate the protective order.
O'BRIEN: With that, the attorneys walk away from the microphones. And because of that gag order, which officially is not in effect just yet, but obviously they don't want to violate the spirit of that, talking about not wanting to get off on the wrong foot, Jeff Toobin and I were just talking about how they obviously have some -- well, they have to backtrack a little bit with this judge, don't they, Jeff Toobin? It's going to be a little opportunity here for them to -- well, there's going to be a need I should say, for them to try to make up for what we have just witnessed, don't you think?
TOOBIN: Well, I think if -- here come Mark Geragos and Ben Brafman again.
O'BRIEN: See if you can grab them.
TOOBIN: Ben, do you think there's a chance that the prosecutors and the judge might be offended by this scene out there?
BRAFMAN: I think if they understand that this was responsible for this spontaneous outpouring of people that think highly of him and truly love him, I think the judge should not be offended.
I can tell you, I've been on this case for two days, and people are coming up to me and begging me if they could take a picture with me, because I am going to be standing next to Michael Jackson. So I honestly believe there is nothing we could do even if we tried to keep these people away. These people really love Michael Jackson, and there are people who flew in from Japan, who flew in from Poland, who flew in from Australia for a proceeding that took about an hour, and I think that's quite extraordinary and I would hope the judge would not be...
TOOBIN: But there was no requirement for Michael Jackson to get up on a car and start waving to people. I mean, that's a pretty...
But let's have an understanding. And I think early on in this case, we're the lawyers, we're going to be lawyers. He is Michael Jackson. He is an entertainer. He is not by profession a defendant in a criminal case. There is no rule book for how a Michael Jackson entertainer performs, and these people came thousands of miles to see Michael Jackson, and I think spontaneously, he wanted those not close enough to see him.
QUESTION: It isn't a concert. It is a court proceeding. What sort of advice will you be give him for the next court appearance.
BRAFMAN: I will give him a lot of advice with respect to the court proceedings, and do I not believe that I am going to try to change Michael Jackson from being Michael Jackson, and nor do I think that if I tried, I would succeed. This is Michael Jackson.
QUESTION: Let me ask you two quick questions. First of all, why are you in this case at all now? Why have you joined the team? And also, are you aware that your client has invited his fans to a get- together at Neverland Ranch today between now and 2:00? Are you aware of that?
BRAFMAN: I am under a gag order in terms of responding to legal issues. So in terms of why I'm in the case, I think if you get asked to represent someone on Michael Jackson's level, I don't think there's a criminal defense lawyer in the world who would say, I'm not interested.
TOOBIN: Well, there you have it, Miles. I think...
O'BRIEN: Jeff Toobin, you asked all the right questions. I don't think we got a very good answer, did we?
TOOBIN: I think the answer we got, which was actually quite interesting, is the lawyers appear to have very limited control here. Michael Jackson is a force of nature, a force of show business, you know, perhaps one of the top dozen best known people in the world, not America. And to a certain extent, he's going to do what he wants. I wouldn't be surprised if Mark Geragos and Ben Brafman had a heart-to- heart with him and said, look, OK, once maybe. But every time you come to court you can't get up on your limousine and wave to thousands of fans. I mean, that simply is not going to be tolerated.
Certainly, I mean, I don't know how well you could see it. I was behind. This was almost a dangerous situation, where you had sheriff's deputies leaning against the fences just to try to keep there from being a collapse. I mean that was the kind of pressure. I mean, it reminded me a little of those soccer stadiums in Europe where you've had people injured and killed, the force of humanity was such. I mean, I bet even if the lawyers don't go to the Jackson -- go to Michael Jackson and say stop this, the sheriff's deputies and security officials will say, we simply can't have this again, because I don't think they'll put up with it.
O'BRIEN: It's truly remarkable. And when a lawyer is in a situation like this, where they feel like they're losing control, no matter how much notoriety that case might bring, no matter the paycheck might be, it's got to be the situation where you really wouldn't rather be there, or not?
TOOBIN: From the looks of Ben Brafman, he looks like he wouldn't be anywhere else in the world today. I mean, I think the appeal of the limelight, the appeal of the challenge, the appeal of a client, who it is worth remembering appears to have quite a defensible case here. I mean, this is not a slam-dunk victory for the prosecution, and I think there is going to be weirdness in this case. I think that is one of the most solid predictions I've ever made, but I don't think Mark Geragos or Ben Brafman have any thoughts of regret about being involved, even if they may rue the day that Michael Jackson got up on his limousine.
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