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Attorney leaves Jackson's defense team

Michael Jackson

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- One of the attorneys representing pop superstar Michael Jackson in his child molestation case has left the defense team for unspecified reasons.

Los Angeles attorney Steve Cochran, a longtime Jackson representative, was one of five lawyers defending Jackson against a 10-count indictment that includes charges of child molestation.

Cochran was one of two lawyers retained when Jackson changed his defense team last April, replacing lead attorneys Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman. Jackson kept Cochran and Santa Barbara attorney Robert Sanger.

Jackson issued a statement that said Cochran took a "temporary leave of absence, for his own confidential reasons, from my defense team."

Jackson said Thomas Mesereau Jr. would remain his lead attorney and that Cochran would still help with the case.

Mesereau also issued a statement on Friday, calling Cochran a "brilliant lawyer" and denying the two did not get along.

"To the contrary of certain rumors, there has never been any animosity between us. Steve and I will continue to collaborate," the statement said.

Following Thursday's court hearing, attorneys met privately with Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville.

The judge was advised of Cochran's departure during the meeting, sources said.

Cochran has represented Jackson on a variety of legal matters, having first served as one of the attorneys helping to defend him against allegations of child abuse in 1993.

He has also represented many celebrities, including Charlie Sheen, Britney Spears, Forest Whitaker and Paul Rodriguez, and he is an attorney for NBC-Universal Studios.

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