What Happened To Thomas Mesereau From The Michael Jackson Case?

New York native Thomas Mesereau had made his way as a corporate attorney after graduating from the Hastings College of the Law at the University of California. According to the Los Angeles Times, he told an old law school friend that he was growing bored with corporate law and aimed for something higher. Specifically, he said his plan was to read the books of every famed criminal defense attorney to motivate him to become one himself. It didn't take long, either. 

Mesereau began doing criminal defense work in the 1990s and soon developed a reputation for helping in some cases that were making headlines. In 1997, he defended a former Compton City Council member on fraud and extortion charges. Though she was found guilty and sentenced to prison, his arguments got her a sentence of nearly half of what the prosecutor demanded. Mesereau also represented a homeless man charged with murder, securing an acquittal. 

His reputation among the stars was cemented when he was hired by actor Robert Blake. Blake was charged with murdering his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley. Though he didn't represent Blake during the trial that ultimately acquitted him, he worked to get Blake eligible to be released on bond. When pop sensation Michael Jackson was charged with child molestation, the singer hired Mesereau to defend him. It proved to be a wise decision, as Mesereau was able to get Jackson cleared of all charges. 

Mesereau has made an illustrious career in criminal defense law. Since the Jackson trial ended, he has worked with several higher-profile cases.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

He defended a 'real estate agent to the stars' in 2009

In 2009, Thomas Mesereau was able to get an acquittal for Joseph A. Babajian, a high-profile "real estate agent to the stars" in Southern California (per the Los Angeles Times). Babajian had many celebrity clients, including David Beckham and Oscar De La Hoya. He and two other defendants were accused of conspiring to grossly inflate the values of homes that they purchased to get banks to loan them large sums of money. The alleged conspiracy federal prosecutors outlined involved Mesereau as the realtor, as well as other agents and real estate appraisers. 

SYLG Attorneys at Law reports that even though two of the defendants were found guilty, Mesereau was able to get his client fully exonerated. The jury found Babajian not guilty of 13 of the criminal counts he was charged with, but it couldn't reach a verdict on the remaining eight.  Along with the conviction of two of the defendants, 10 others pled guilty in plea bargains arranged with the court. 

Mesereau's defense strategy was to show that his client merely did his job in passing on the bulk of the work to the others charged in the case. He was able to show the jury that Babajian had no criminal intent and no motivation to engage in any kind of fraud. This might not be the kind of glamour Mesereau was looking for in a criminal defense case, but he still found plenty of clients to give him the spotlight in murder trials.

Mesereau defended the ex-wife of actor Joe Pesci in a murder case

When Hollywood stuntman Garrett Warren answered his door one Saturday night in May 2000, he wasn't expecting to get hit with a hail of gunfire (per The Daily Beast). His would-be assailant fled after hitting him with multiple shots. Fortunately, Warren survived. It wasn't until two years later that investigators were able to put some pieces together and surmise that the shooting was a botched hit job that they alleged was orchestrated by Warren's ex-wife, Claudia Haro. 

Haro was a model and actress, formerly married to Oscar-winner Joe Pesci. She appeared in several memorable films from the 1990s, including "Casino" and "With Honors," both with Pesci (via IMDb). Prosecutors put together a case that accused Haro of plotting with her brother to arrange a hit on Warren. After her brother was set to testify against her, Mesereau got her a deal with the court. Haro, who was facing two life sentences, was able to enter a plea of no contest. This led to her being sentenced to a little over 12 years in prison. 

He briefly defended Suge Knight against murder charges

In January 2015, Suge Knight ran over two men with his car outside a burger stand in Compton, California. One of the men died, prompting prosecutors to file murder charges against the hip-hop mogul. Facing the court with additional charges that included attempted murder and hit-and-run, Knight retained the services of attorney Thaddeus Culpepper and Mesereau to defend him in May (via Billboard). Mesereau wasted no time getting to work — he filed motions to address his client's treatment in jail, including why Knight was denied phone calls and family visits. Mesereau alleged that Knight was not being "treated humanely" by the jail (via KTAR News)

Despite Mesereau's efforts, Knight opted to replace him with attorney Stephen L. Schwartz. Schwartz was the fifth person added to the defense team in what would prove to be a futile effort to avoid a lengthy prison sentence. According to CBS News, Knight was found guilty and sentenced to 28 years in prison in 2018. The original sentence in this plea arrangement was only to yield him 22 years in the slammer, but Knight's criminal history came into play during sentencing. Due to California's three-strikes law, Knight had an additional six years tacked onto his sentence. 

Bill Cosby also used Mesereau for a defense attorney

Bill Cosby's first go before a Pennsylvania court on sexual assault charges resulted in a mistrial. Though he wasn't Cosby's attorney at the time, Thomas Mesereau weighed in on the idea of Cosby being recharged by prosecutors. In an interview with NBC News, the famed criminal defense attorney mentioned some similarities between Cosby's case and Jackson's successful defense 15 years earlier. "The worldwide media had already condemned him and basically discarded him as trash," Mesereau said.  "I see something similar happening now."

As fate would have it, Cosby would eventually retain Mesereau for his defense after he was recharged. Cosby was facing three criminal charges, with a sentence of 10 years possible for each one. In his 80s, this would have meant life behind bars. But Cosby soon changed legal strategies and hired a different attorney to represent him (via Inside Edition). He was found guilty in 2018 and sentenced to three to 10 years in prison. A court later determined that his due process rights were violated and freed him from prison in 2021 (per The New York Times).

Mesereau said of his former initial conviction (per Inside Edition), "I think an appeal of this case has to succeed. I hope he doesn't spend one minute in jail because he doesn't deserve to."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Mesereau operates a legal clinic in Los Angeles

Thomas Mesereau has earned himself a reputation as a crusader for representing indigent clients in capital murder cases. The attorney has taken one pro bono case a year for the last 23 years, focusing on higher-profile murder cases in Alabama and Mississippi (per his website). In each of these cases, Mesereau accepts no form of payment, and his legal expertise has resulted in every defendant being able to avoid the death penalty, mostly through plea bargains. Mesereau also operates a free legal clinic in Inglewood, California. Twice a month, the clinic brings together legal minds from across the community to help educate and inform participants. Counsel is provided to financially disadvantaged members of the Los Angeles community, spearheaded by Mesereau. 

Fox News reports that actor Danny Masterson initially hired Mesereau to defend him on charges of sexual assault. Mesereau was the "That 70s Show" actor's attorney until he was replaced by lead council Phillip Cohen. Masterson's jury deadlocked on the verdict, resulting in a mistrial in December 2022. A new trial is scheduled for March 2023. There has been no mention of whether Mesereau will become reinvolved in the case (via NBC News).

Mesereau had been honored for his legal contributions over the years since the Jackson trial. He has received multiple accommodations from the California state legislature and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, among others. He was also given a Humanitarian Award from the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice (per the attorney's website).

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).