Prosecutors Raise Concerns About Rittenhouse Fundraising

Controversial Los Angeles lawyer steps back from teen's criminal case
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2020 3:57 AM CST
Updated Dec 4, 2020 6:42 AM CST
Controversial Lawyer Steps Back From Rittenhouse Case
In this screen grab from live stream video, Kyle Rittenhouse, left, appears with attorney, Mark Richards during a hearing at Kenosha County Court in Kenosha, Wis., on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.   (Nineteenth Judicial Circuit Court via AP)

A lawyer for Kyle Rittenhouse stepped back from the teenager's criminal case Thursday after prosecutors said ethical concerns made him unfit for the trial team. Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger said in a motion filed Thursday that Los Angeles-based lawyer John Pierce has "significant personal financial difficulties" which create a potential for a conflict of interest, the Chicago Tribune reports. Prosecutors said the #FightBack Foundation, which has been raising funds for Rittenhouse's defense, is an "unregulated and opaque 'slush fund'" that "provides ample opportunity for self-dealing and fraud." The fund raised more than $2 million in the first month after Rittenhouse was arrested for fatally shooting two men and wounding a third during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August, but Pierce still had to scramble to raise $2 million to free the 17-year-old on bail last month, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"Effective immediately I am taking over all civil matters for Kyle including his future defamation claims," Pierce tweeted hours after the motion was filed. "I will also be orchestrating all fundraising for defense costs. The terrific Mark Richards will proceed in Wisconsin." The Journal Sentinel reports that Lin Wood, who has been heavily involved in efforts to overturn election results, has also apparently stepped back from the case. Richards represented Rittenhouse in a hearing Thursday, where a court commissioner ruled that there was enough evidence to warrant a trial in the case, the AP reports. Richards told Kenosha County Circuit Court Commissioner Loren Keating that Rittenhouse had acted in self-defense, but Keating told him that "as the court has already indicated, that is an issue for trial." (More Kyle Rittenhouse stories.)

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