Kyle Rittenhouse, left, walks along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wis., on Aug. 25, 2020 with another armed civilian. Prosecutors charged Rittenhouse, 17, from Illinois, in the fatal shooting of two protesters and the wounding of a third during a night of unrest after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. (Photo: Adam Rogan/Racine Journal Times)
One of the lawyers for a group of Kenosha protesters has withdrawn from their case against Facebook and rifle-toting men, after trying to add a plaintiff who turned out to have past credibility issues.
But as she left, Jennifer Sirrine took some shots at her former co-counsel, whom she accused of underpaying and misleading her and resenting that she talked to news media about the case, which accuses the men of conspiring to violate the plaintiffs’ rights and Facebook of negligence in allowing the posts the plaintiffs say fueled the conspiracy.
Sirrine is from Massachusetts. Jason Flores-Williams is a Denver lawyer known for his high-profile activist cases on behalf of homeless people, death row inmates and the Colorado River.
But apparently, he relied on Sirrine to draft the Kenosha-related complaint filed in Wisconsin federal court last month, according to her motion to withdraw. She said that in a Sept. 21 email, Flores-Williams said she’d be 80% in charge of the early litigation because he expected to be tied up in two murder trials.
A man on a bike rides past a city truck on fire outside the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. Kenosha police shot a man earlier in the evening setting off unrest in the city. (Photo: Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
He assured her she would get paid because, “for the record, know that I am now a rich lawyer.”
But as soon as Sirrine began actively participating — she did several media interviews when the case was filed — Flores-Williams began harassing her by email, she wrote, and declined to pay her for time spent on those interviews or sign a more formal co-counsel agreement she sent him.
Sirrine described several emails as unsettling and in a 1,500-word version, she said, Flores-Williams threatened her with professional sanctions for falsely adding his signature to a pleading if she didn’t immediately withdraw from the case.
In her motion to withdraw, Sirrine suggests she made a clerical error that was easily fixed, but after she shared client contracts that she had drafted with Flores-Williams, she got emails from two of them saying they wanted to end their client-attorney relationships.
An armed man is seen outside the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha on Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020. Kenosha police shot a man Sunday evening, setting off unrest in the city. (Photo: Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
She notes that she has filed ethics complaints about Flores-Williams in three jurisdictions where he is licensed.
“The responsibility lies with me. I was busy with an international case at the time and didn’t vet someone the way I should have,” Flores-Williams said Tuesday.
“Once we recognized the problem, we immediately corrected the issue, and have since been 110 percent focused on holding Facebook, and the militias that it enables, accountable for the rise of right-wing violence and intimidation in America.”
Not quite a plaintiff
Federal court records show the amended complaint that Sirrine filed, then withdrew, would have added a fifth plaintiff, Carol A. Badoni, of Burlington.
Badoni, 50, did TV interviews saying she had tried to provide first aid to Anthony Huber, 26, moments after he was fatally shot by Kyle Rittenhouse on Aug. 25.
She told a Chicago station that she ran toward the shooting and tried administering CPR to Huber after she couldn’t feel a pulse. She told CNN it was one of the worst things she’d seen in her life and that she saw no evidence Rittenhouse acted in self-defense.
The interviews refer to her as a 20-year military veteran who was wounded twice in Afghanistan, which she states on her Twitter profile. That is not true.
Badoni said she never told the interviewers she served in Afghanistan or was wounded there, and that she never uses her old Twitter account. She said she did briefly join the Wisconsin National Guard for under a year in the early 1990s.
Gaige Grosskreutz, left, was shot in the arm during protests in Kenosha. Anthony Huber, right, was shot in the chest and killed. Kyle Rittenhouse, shown on the ground, was charged in the shootings. (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
But she did try to help Huber that night, as seen starting around the 3:12 mark on a video produced by The Washington Post.
Badoni said she only talked to Sirrine and Flores-Williams by phone and has no plans to sue anyone herself over the events in Kenosha. “But I do hope they do something about Facebook,” she said.
Flores-Williams’ concerns about Badoni’s credibility may also have been triggered by her dramatic court testimony in 2008. David Brossard had been charged with killing his wife — who had disappeared in 1997 — after her remains were discovered wrapped in chains at the bottom of Geneva Lake in 2003.
At Brossard’s preliminary hearing, Badoni testified she’d had a three-year affair with Brossard around the time his wife disappeared and that he’d talked of killing and weighing down her body in the lake.
She also said she’d worked as an exotic dancer and had tried to commit suicide too many times to remember.
Prosecutors did not recall Badoni as a witness at Brossard’s trial in 2009. He was acquitted by the jury.
The original and remaining plaintiffs in the case include Hannah Gittings, 23, who watched Huber die after he was shot by Rittenhouse. Authorities say he was striking the teen with a skateboard and trying to disarm him shortly after Rittenhouse had shot and killed another man, Joseph Rosenbaum, 36.
Other plaintiffs include two Kenosha men and a Milwaukee woman who say they were subjected to threats, intimidation and violence by the defendants.
They plan a news conference Friday in Kenosha to paste postings from the Kenosha Guard Facebook page on a real wall.
“If the hate and racism damaging our country were put in the real center of American towns, it would be taken down immediately,” Gittings said in a news release. “But because it is on Facebook — the virtual center of America — we let it run rampant and fuel violence.”
Besides Facebook, the defendants include Rittenhouse, the Illinois resident facing homicide charges; Ryan Balch, a Jackson man who later wrote and spoke about being with Rittenhouse that night; and Kevin Mathewson, a former Kenosha alderman who formed the Kenosha Guard and used Facebook to call for armed followers to come to the city.
Mathewson and Balch have not responded to earlier requests for interviews. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Balch has been immersed in white supremacy.
The Kenosha Guard and the Boogaloo Bois, an informal group that advocates a race war in America, are also named as defendants.
In response to the lawsuit, Facebook issued this statement
“We removed the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and took action against organizations and content related to Kenosha. We have found no evidence that suggests the shooter followed the Kenosha Guard Page or that he was invited to the Event Page they organized.”
Contact Bruce Vielmetti at (414) 224-2187 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.
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