Rittenhouse fires lawyer who helped fundraise millions for him

Los Angeles attorney John Pierce helped raise money from conservatives for Mr Rittenhouse's $2m bail which was posted in November

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Friday 05 February 2021 21:33
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Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old who stands accused of killing two people and injuring another during racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin last summer, has fired a lawyer who helped raise money for his bail. 

Los Angeles attorney John Pierce helped raise money from conservatives for Mr Rittenhouse's $2m bail which was posted in November. 

Mr Rittenhouse is accused of shooting three people during the protests in August that came after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man, seven times in the back as he was walking to his car. Mr Blake survived but is paralysed from the waist down. 

Mr Rittenhouse, who is white, travelled to Kenosha from Antioch, Illinois. He has argued that he was attacked and that he used his weapon in self-defence. 

After prosecutors said Mr Rittenhouse violated the conditions of his bail by alleging that he moved without notifying the court of his change address within 48 hours, a judge is weighing whether to issue a warrant for the arrest of Mr Rittenhouse. The prosecutors' motion also argues that Mr Rittenhouse's bail should be raised by $200,000.

The California lawyer Mr Pierce left Mr Rittenhouse's criminal case in December after prosecutors said he suffered “significant financial difficulties” and shouldn't be permitted to raise money for his client. Mr Pierce stayed on as Mr Rittenhouse's legal representative on civil matters, however. 

Supporters of Mr Rittenhouse tweeted Thursday on their "FreeKyleUSA" Twitter account that Mr Pierce was "terminated" by Mr Rittenhouse on Monday. 

They wrote: "Following the recommendation of attorney’s and accountants everywhere, we’ve been offline for a few weeks to set up an independent irrevocable trust strictly for the benefit of Kyle. John Pierce opposed that idea. It is clear that by doing so, we made the right decision."

The account holders added: "John Pierce was terminated by Kyle on Monday morning. His association with FreeKyleUSA was also terminated. When we begin raising funds again, John Pierce has no involvement and is not connected in any way to the funds being raised. John does not speak for Kyle anymore."

"Kyle, his family, and freekyleusa wish John Pierce the very best and thank him for his work over the past five months," they later tweeted. 

To replace Mr Pierce, lawyer Robert Barnes joined the legal team which already included Mark Richards, according to the account. 

"Mr Barnes has been a vocal advocate for Kyle Rittenhouse from day one. His assessment of the people previously in Kyle's orbit were spot on. He agreed to help Kyle bring calm to the chaos that currently surrounds him," the account stated

Mr Barnes tweeted that he was "happy to join" Mr Rittenhouse's legal team. "Kid's innocent, and everybody knows it," he added. 

In response to the prosecutors' motion asking the judge in the case to raise Mr Rittenhouse's bail, Mr Richards countered in his own motion Wednesday that death threats have driven Mr Rittenhouse into an “undisclosed Safe House.” Mr Richards said he offered to give prosecutors the new address in November if they would keep it secret but they refused. He said Mr Rittenhouse has stayed in constant contact with him.

Mr Rittenhouse is charged with multiple counts, including homicide, and prosecutors allege that Mr Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, responded to a militia’s call on social media to protect Kenosha businesses from protesters. He is said to have opened fire with an assault-style rifle on Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber and Gaige Grosskreutz. Mr Rosenbaum and Mr Huber were killed, Mr Grosskreutz was wounded but survived.

Mr Rittenhouse allegedly fled to his home in Antioch but turned himself in to police there the next day. After $2m was raised for his bail, he left jail in November. 

Conservatives have rallied around Mr Rittenhouse as a symbol for gun rights and pushing back against anti-police protesters, others insist he escalated tensions by walking around the protest with a gun.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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