Ahead of Kyle Rittenhouse’s next trial, his attorney has asked the Kenosha County judge to grant Wisconsin legal rights to the California attorney who promoted Rittenhouse in the media.
John Pierce from Los Angeles is not licensed to practice in Wisconsin and requires a so-called pro hac vice license to join local Racine attorney Mark Richards at the defense table for Rittenhouse hearings.
Kenosha County’s Assistant District Attorney Jason Zapf has asked Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder to hold a hearing on the motion “to address several issues.” None had been announced by Friday afternoon.
Zapf did not reply to an email on the matter.
17-year-old Rittenhouse, Illinois, is charged with two murders, one attempted murder, two reckless endangerment and illegal possession of a gun in the August 25 shooting during demonstrations in Kenosha. His attorneys posted his $ 2 million bail on Friday afternoon and he was released.
His lawyers and supporters say Rittenhouse acted in clear self-defense, and Pierce has labeled the case a political persecution.
While Pierce has no real criminal defense experience, he has taken the lead by trying to shape his client’s views in the court of public opinion, labeling him a patriot whose shots will be remembered as the start of yet another revolution will. He has also worked to raise funds for Rittenhouse’s defense costs.
While the first forays into social media and conservative media outlets like Fox News, Pierce has recently expanded to more mainstream media.
In an undated interview with the Washington Post that Pierce approved while Rittenhouse was incarcerated in Illinois, but which was released this week, the teenager said he had no regrets about bringing a rifle downtown that night.
“I felt I had to protect myself,” he told the Post. “I would have died that night if I hadn’t.”
Defenders question tactics
Such tactics make many defense lawyers very restless.
A consistent critic of Pierce’s role is Michael E. Barnes, a Wisconsin licensed attorney in Los Angeles who has worked on major political affairs as well as criminal defense.
“Kyle shouldn’t be talking at all at this point,” Barnes said. “That’s crazy.”
Calling the Pierce team’s earlier handling of the extradition a disaster, he wondered why Rittenhouse had been in jail for so long when supporters reportedly donated more than enough for his bail weeks ago.
“They seem to be focused on their own fame and their own money,” Barnes said of Pierce and L. Lin Wood who brought him on the case.
Wood is a well-known Atlanta defamation attorney. Within 48 hours of the Rittenhouse indictment, Wood announced that Pierce was leading the defense team.
Just weeks before the events in Kenosha, Wood and Pierce started the non-profit FightBack Foundation in Texas. It was originally geared towards making crowdsourced money to sue the “fake news media” and “check out the lies of the left.” After taking up the case, they encouraged supporters to donate to the foundation to help Rittenhouse.
In September Pierce announced that he would be stepping down from FightBack’s board of directors after reports of financial problems with him and his former law firm. Wood, who continues to serve as the foundation’s CEO, tweeted that he would oversee payments from the donated funds to Pierce and his team.
More recently, Pierce and Wood threatened to sue President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign over a complaint allegedly implying that Rittenhouse is a white supremacist. His mother said to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, “I’ll take him out,” referring to Biden.
Wood faces a lawsuit from his former partners that describes him as unpredictable, incoherent and threatening. He has been active on Twitter for the past few weeks commenting on the presidential election, which he believes has been the subject of massive fraud.
Pierce and his associate Andrew Calderon were temporarily admitted to Illinois to combat extradition from Rittenhouse to Wisconsin.
There Pierce had indicated in court pleadings that he intended to call experts and Wendy Rittenhouse at a hearing, but then announced that day that the defense had changed their strategies and would only argue one point, and none of the witnesses presented .
In June, Pierce applied for Pro-Hac approval in New York, a state where he had previously obtained a license. Lawyers, on the other hand, protested, citing Pierce’s debts and other distractions. Pierce later withdrew his request, but the attorney who vouched for him said this was because another firm had agreed to take on the role Pierce was going to play, rather than the objection.
Contact Bruce Vielmetti at (414) 224-2187 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.