Jacko's Longtime Attorney Leaves Defense Team

An attorney who has represented Michael Jackson (searchfor more than a decade has left the pop star's defense team, Jackson announced Friday.

Steve Cochran (searchtook a "temporary leave of absence" from the team defending Jackson from child molestation charges but will continue to "collaborate" with lead attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr., Jackson said.

"I would like to thank attorney Steve Cochran for all of the hard work he has done on my behalf," Jackson said in a statement released by his spokeswoman. "He continues to be my friend and close adviser."

A reason for the departure was not released. A message left after business hours at Cochran's Los Angeles office was not immediately returned.

In a separate statement, Mesereau denied rumors that there was animosity between him and Cochran. He called Cochran a friend, "brilliant lawyer, and a great credit to our profession."

Mesereau declined further comment when contacted by the Associated Press.

In April, Jackson fired Mark Geragos (searchand Benjamin Brafman, replacing the two famous attorneys with Mesereau. The team of Cochran and Robert Sanger had worked for Jackson in lesser roles throughout the case.

Jackson has pleaded not guilty to child molestation, conspiracy and administering an intoxicating agent, alcohol.