Kevin Fagan, [email protected]

San Francisco Chronicle, CA
Jan 7 2008

Pit bull. Hollywood. Showboat.

All of these have been used to describe Mark Geragos, the attorney
who jetted up from Los Angeles last week to represent the two brothers
who were mauled in the Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Francisco
Zoo. And does that bother Geragos?


"It's all about the client," he said. "So if they want to say I do
everything I can for my client, fine."

Indeed, in between the showboating jibes, they do say that - meaning
everyone from other lawyers to the galaxy of cable-show talking heads
who book him to fill the airwaves with opinion, from Larry King to
Geraldo Rivera.

"Like they say, any publicity is good publicity, and Mark has certainly
had a lot," said Gary Bostwick, another Los Angeles attorney who
draws from the same sort of client pool, having represented baseball
great Steve Garvey and the infamous "Fatal Vision" killer, Jeffrey
MacDonald. "But that's not the only thing he is about. Defense lawyers
like Mark who do these kinds of unpopular cases are on a mission that
is like tilting at windmills, like it's a duty to find justice. He
works very hard."

Before Geragos, 50, rose to national celebrity status in 1998 with
his successful fight to win acquittal for Clinton Whitewater figure
Susan McDougal, he was known mostly as a Los Angeles workaholic who
was good at keeping accused murderers and swindlers out of prison.

A parade of stars, from actress Winona Ryder and singer Michael Jackson
to Laci Peterson's convicted husband, Scott, followed McDougal's case,
and with each case - win or lose - Geragos' star ascended further.

The San Francisco Zoo's tiger case, which has grabbed international
headlines for more than a week, was a natural fit.

Multimillion-dollar lawsuits are almost certain to be filed against
the zoo for not properly enclosing the tiger.

Geragos said he signed on to represent Paul Dhaliwal, 19, and his
23-year-old brother, Kulbir, because they were being smeared in the
press and by the zoo when what happened to them was "mind-boggling."

The most important fact in the entire affair, Geragos said, is that
zoo enclosures are supposed to be so secure that animals can't escape,
no matter how provoked they are.

"Trust me, when the zoo goes on the stand to defend itself about what
happened, it's going to look pretty bad," he said.

Practically from the moment the two were taken to San Francisco
General Hospital after the evening attack that left their friend
Carlos Sousa Jr. dead and the brothers clawed and bitten, accusations
and implications have swirled that they taunted the tiger Tatiana
into launching her rampage. If true, the pair could be guilty of a
misdemeanor under San Francisco law that prohibits disturbing zoo
animals. It didn't help, image-wise, that the Dhaliwals have had
allegedly drunken scraps with the police and are despised as noisy
boors by several of their neighbors.

"The bottom line is that these boys were doing no taunting,
and the fact that they are being attacked (with allegations) is
unconscionable," Geragos said. "I wouldn't accept anything coming
out of the mouth of anyone associated with the zoo."

No zoo officials have openly accused the brothers of taunting the
tiger, but high-profile crisis consultant Sam Singer of San Francisco
has carefully treaded toward that edge, saying leadingly that "all
of the facts still aren't out" about the incident. Because of this,
Geragos takes special aim at Singer, calling him a "so-called crisis
manager who has been peddling rumors."

Singer fires back that "anything that a defense attorney says has to
be taken with not a pinch of salt, but a ton of salt."

It's all par for the course for Geragos, say those who know him.

"Mark was born to be a lawyer," said Loyola Law School Professor
Laurie Levenson, who has known Geragos for years and had him talk to
her classes. "It's all he ever wanted to do. Doing a personal injury
case like (the tiger attack) is a little unusual for him, but he's
a smart guy, so you can bet he won't miss any details. And he likes
the high-profile cases - the higher the better."

In his national spotlight cases, he's had a mixed scorecard.

Ryder was convicted of shoplifting, Peterson went to Death Row and
baseball slugger Barry Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson was unable to
avoid jail for contempt. But then again, U.S. Rep. Gary Condit was
never charged in connection with the death of his mistress and intern
Chandra Levy. Geragos also helped win $37.5 million for victims in the
century-old Turkish genocide of 1.5 million Armenians, and prostitution
charges were dismissed against James Bond film director Lee Tamahori.

Sympathetic client, famous client, seemingly dirtbag client - they're
all the same to Geragos. The only important thing, he has consistently
said for years, is that he believes the client has a case. And if
that's so, he's in it to flat-out win.

"Every case has a life of its own," Geragos said. "You take them one
at a time."