17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse is being charged as an adult for shooting three people, two of them fatally, during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The lead attorney representing accused Kenosha, Wisconsin, gunman Kyle Rittenhouse said he resigned his position with a defense fund expected to benefit his 17-year-old client out of concern for the lawyer’s troubled financial history.
Attorney John Pierce said Friday that he made the move earlier this week to avoid any “appearance of conflict” related to a series of legal disputes in which Pierce and his firm have been accused of defaulting on millions of dollars in obligations to the firm’s financiers, according to court documents.
Pierce, who has repeatedly promoted the #FightBack Foundation fund on Twitter, has vowed to assemble a “Seal Team” of former prosecutors and defenders to assist his client, accused in last week’s shooting that left two dead and another wounded during a night of demonstrations following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Rittenhouse, the lawyer has asserted, acted in self defense.
So far, donors have poured more than $700,000 into the fund, founded prior to the shooting with a broader mission to “bring lawsuits to stop the left’s lies.” Pierce and Lin Wood — an attorney who first won notoriety representing Richard Jewell, falsely accused in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic bombing — are founding members of the foundation. #FightBack Foundation Inc. was incorporated in Texas effective Aug. 12, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
More: Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, being charged as an adult for shooting 3 people at Kenosha protests
17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse is being charged as an adult for shooting three people, two of them fatally, during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Photo: KRISTEN T HARRIS VIA STORYFUL)
Wood, now the foundation’s controlling member, said Friday that he had “no concerns” about Pierce’s financial issues, saying that they predate the foundation’s formation and the attorney’s association with Rittenhouse. He also said the foundation was nearing an agreement with an outside counsel as an additional safeguard on the foundation’s operation.
“If everybody who needed a lawyer was forced to hire a pristine firm, nobody would ever be able to hire a lawyer,” Wood said.
Wood, who has also represented Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic, Herman Cain and John and Patsy Ramsey, said Pierce’s resignation from the foundation was related to separating his work as Rittenhouse’s attorney from the foundation, which would be reimbursing Pierce and his associates for any fees and expenses related to the criminal case.
Pierce and his firm, which has represented President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have been involved in a series of financial entanglements with funders of the firm Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht.
Earlier this year, Pierce acknowledged failing to pay nearly $4 million as part of an agreement with Karish Kapital, which had provided the firm cash advances, according to court documents filed in New York.
An attorney for Karish said the judgment has not yet been satisfied, and declined to comment further.
A much larger obligation of about $65 million also looms from a separate funder, Virage Capital.
Virage declined to comment.
Although Pierce generally acknowledged the pressing financial issues, he declined to comment on how he was moving to reconcile them.
Since the Kenosha shooting, Pierce said he has been consumed with his work on behalf of Rittenhouse, who has become a cause celebre for some on the right.
“Make no mistake, America, nothing less than your God-given right to defend yourself, your family and your country is on trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin,” Pierce tweeted early Friday. “Watch closely and hold your government accountable.”
Referring to cell phone video of the incident, Trump told reporters Monday that Rittenhouse was “trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like,” and said that protesters “violently attacked him.” Trump repeatedly noted the shooting remained under investigation but also appeared to embrace Rittenhouse’s defense.
President Donald Trump said that protesters “violently attacked” Kyle Rittenhouse, but the incident was under investigation.
While he has stepped back from the foundation, Pierce said he would not stop urging people to donate to the suspect’s cause.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with helping to raise money for a client’s defense,” he said.
He also expected that his work and that of his associates would be reimbursed by the foundation. All of the work for Rittenhouse, he said, would be done under the auspices of a separate firm, apart from the organization linked to the sizeable default claims.
“At some point, you still have to pay the rent and keep the lights on,” Pierce said. “But for this case, I would live off the land if I had to.”
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/09/04/kyle-rittenhouse-lawyer-steps-back-fightback-defense-fund/5717120002/