KENOSHA — A high-profile attorney for Kyle Rittenhouse says he is stepping back from the teen's criminal defense.
John M. Pierce began representing Rittenhouse shortly after the 17-year-old was charged with homicide for allegedly shooting and killing two people and injuring a third during protests in Kenosha. Pierce has also led fundraising efforts for Rittenhouse, helping him pay his $2 million bail.
On Thursday, Pierce tweeted that Racine-based attorney Mark Richards will now be representing Rittenhouse in the criminal trial. Pierce will be taking over all civil matters for Rittenhouse, including future defamation claims, as well as fundraising, he added in the tweet. A Kenosha County judge decided the same day that Rittenhouse's case will head to trial.
Rittenhouse is facing a total of six charges, including two counts of 1st-Degree Reckless Homicide. Prosecutors allege Rittenhouse shot and killed Anthony M. Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz during protests in Kenosha on Aug. 25.
Pierce tweeted: "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. I will also be orchestrating all fundraising for defense costs. The terrific Mark Richards will proceed in Wisconsin."
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. I will also be orchestrating all fundraising for defense costs. The terrific Mark Richards will proceed in Wisconsin.— John Pierce (@CaliKidJMP) December 3, 2020
The decision may be due to growing tensions between Pierce and prosecutors, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.
Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney, Thomas Binger, wrote in a motion Thursday that Pierce should not be allowed to represent Rittenhouse in the criminal trial because of "significant" financial difficulties. Binger fears Pierce may use money raised for Rittenhouse to pay his own debts, according to the Tribune.
That motion states Pierce has no income, expenses of nearly $50,000 a month and owes $1.2 million to various creditors. The prosecutors also allege Pierce has not followed rules in Wisconsin regarding what lawyers can publically say before a trial begins, according to the Tribune.
Mark Richards was the attorney who tried to dismiss two charges filed against Rittenhouse the day before his pretrial hearing Thursday.