Law Practice

Mark Geragos Removed from CIA Case

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Updated: A federal judge in San Diego has removed Mark Geragos from representing a defense contractor in a CIA fraud case, because the high-profile California defense lawyer refused to submit to background checks to obtain a security clearance.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said yesterday that it was necessary to remove Geragos because prosecutors otherwise would have had to check 17,000 document pages for sensitive information, creating an undue burden. But Geragos called this contention “laughable,” saying his client has a constitutional right to see prosecution material, reports the Associated Press.

Removing Geragos could delay the scheduled Oct. 23 trial in the case, and Geragos’ client, Brent Wilkes, who has pleaded innocent to multiple counts of conspiring to defraud the Central Intelligence Agency, told the court he fears he won’t be able to find another lawyer in private practice to defend him. Because the investigation has destroyed his business, “My resources are stretched beyond the point of breaking,” he told the judge.

An earlier report by ABC News notes that prosecutors contend in a motion (PDF) in the case that Geragos is refusing for strategic reasons to cooperate with security procedures. He is “practicing a…subtle variation of graymail,” prosecutors say, citing a defense tactic in national security cases that forces the government to drop charges or make public sensitive documents that at least arguably could contain national secrets. Geragos did not discuss this claim with ABC.

Defendants Geragos has represented in high-profile cases include singer Michael Jackson, who was acquitted of child molestation; Scott Peterson, now on death row for murdering his wife, Laci Peterson; and Susan McDougal, convicted—and subsequently pardoned by President Bill Clinton—in the so-called Whitewater real estate investment scandal. Geragos represented her in an unrelated California case.

(Hat tips to and Secrecy News.)

(Originally posted at 11:35 a.m.)

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