Mark Geragos, celebrity lawyer

A federal judge in San Diego has removed celebrity attorney Mark Geragos from the upcoming trial involving the former No. 3 official at the Central Intelligence Agency. The reason was Geragos’ stubborn refusal on principle to submit to a background check so he could review tens of thousands of top secret material.

I’m following the case because Geragos’ client, Brent Wilkes, is accused of bribing Randy “Duke” Cunningham with, among other things, prostitutes. In a separate case, Wilkes is accused of conspiring with his CIA buddy, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, who lined up agency work for his friend in exchange for lavish vacations to Scotland and Hawaii the two men took with their families.

The judge, who had reviewed some of the classified material at issue in the Wilkes/Foggo case, practically pleaded with Geragos to get the background check, but he would not be swayed. He likened the security clearance process to something befitting a Soviet-bloc country. Sounding at times like a man running for office, Geragos summoned up outrages like the case of Scooter Libby to drive home the reasons for his distrust of the government.

The man who hired Geragos, Brent Wilkes, seemed crushed by the news he would lose his attorney. Wilkes told the judge he had lost his business, his reputation and much of his personal fortune, so losing his attorney was only the latest outrage perpetrated by the government. But Wilkes’ anger should be directed at his celebrity attorney.

Given his personal feelings about the intrusive nature of background checks, Geragos should never have taken a case involving the CIA’s former executive director. By putting his principles ahead of the man he represented, Geragos has left Wilkes swinging in the wind with his criminal trial set to begin in September.

I suspect that attorneys for Foggo aren’t exactly sad to see Geragos go. No doubt they wanted to have a concerted defense, not an ongoing sideshow about what is and is not classified. Geragos should stick to representing the Michael Jacksons, Winona Ryders and Nate Doggs of Tinseltown. For them, Geragos’ showmanship is a welcome distraction.

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