An attorney representing Kyle Rittenhouse has withdrawn from his criminal case after prosecutors argued in court that his alleged financial problems revealed a conflict of interest.
John Pierce, a Los Angeles-based civil lawyer, had been the public voice for the 17-year-old Illinois teen who is accused of shooting and killing two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin and seriously injuring another during Black Lives Matter protests in the summer.
ABC News reports that Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger filed a motion Thursday (December 3) alleging Pierce should not be able to represent Rittenhouse due to his “significant personal financial difficulties.” Prosecutors had become more and more skeptical of Pierce’s fundraising efforts, which the Chicago Tribune reports targeted the political right.
“Money that should be held in trust for the defendant may instead be used to repay attorney Pierce’s numerous creditors,” Binger wrote.
Pierce says he will now be handling Rittenhouse’s civil matters, including defamation cases against him.
“So that it does not take Kyle’s supporters by surprise, effective immediately I am taking over all civil matters for Kyle including his future defamation claims,” Pierce tweeted. “I will also be orchestrating all fundraising for defense costs. The terrific Mark Richards [a local criminal defense attorney] will proceed in Wisconsin.”
Prosecutors claim Pierce’s ties to Rittenhouse’s legal fundraising efforts could lead to the opportunity for “self-dealing and fraud.” Binger says this could lead to Pierce “personally benefiting” from the foundation, the Tribune reports.
Rittenhouse posted a $2 million bail after spending two-and-a-half months in prison. He is scheduled to be arraigned on January 5.
Rittenhouse was arrested at his home in Antioch, Illinois a day after the August 25 fatal shootings of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26.
Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, was also reportedly shot and wounded by the teen.
There are questions surrounding why Rittenhouse, who lived in Illinois, was even in Kenosha, Wisconsin. His lawyers claimed a business owner invited him to protect property but have not identified who made the request.