Kyle Rittenhouse has parted ways with outspoken attorney John Pierce. The Twitter account FreeKyleUSA, which appears to speak for the Rittenhouse family, announced Thursday that Pierce was fired.
“John Pierce was terminated by Kyle on Monday morning. His association with FreeKyleUSA was also terminated. When we begin raising funds again, John Pierce has no involvement and is not connected in any way to the funds being raised.
John does not speak for Kyle anymore.”
The account stated that Rittenhouse retained another California-based attorney, Robert Barnes. Barnes confirmed that on Twitter Thursday evening.
“Happy to join the #KyleRittenhouse team. Kid’s innocent, and everybody knows it,” Barnes tweeted.
Pierce also addressed the change on Twitter. “John Pierce freed Kyle. John Pierce fought with every fiber of his being for Kyle. John Pierce wants nothing but for Kyle to be acquitted and live a healthy, happy life. John Pierce is ferociously loyal to all of his clients, including all former clients. Mission accomplished.”
The change comes as prosecutors are asking that another $200,000 be added to Rittenhouse’s $2 million bond, saying Rittenhouse failed to abide by bond conditions that require he notify the court within 48 hours if he moved. Rittenhouse has been staying in what Pierce called a “safe house” because of threats.
Early to the cause
Pierce joined Rittenhouse’s defense within days of the Aug. 25 shooting in which Rittenhouse is accused of killing two protesters and injuring a third. Rittenhouse, then 17, had come to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Ill, saying he was “hired” to protect a business during unrest in the city following the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha Police. He was carrying an AR-15 rifle he had allegedly purchased illegally through a friend who acted as a straw purchaser.
Pierce and a second outspoken attorney, Lin Wood, quickly began speaking for Rittenhouse and raising money from supporters, with Pierce saying he would bring in a “SEAL team” of attorneys to handle the teenager’s case.
Initially Pierce indicated he would handle the criminal defense himself, handling a drawn out and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to block Rittenhouse’s extradition from Illinois to Wisconsin. He withdrew from the criminal case in Wisconsin after prosecutors objected to his being admitted, in part because of his financial ties to what prosecutors called a “slush fund” of money coming into the case through donations.
Wood — who later became tied to the unsuccessful legal fight to overturn Joe Biden’s election as president — withdrew from his involvement with Rittenhouse after the $2 million bond was posted with money raised by donors.
Since then, a series of fundraising efforts — including an online store selling branded Rittenhouse merchandise — have been taken down by online hosts. It’s not clear how much money has now been donated, but one online fundraiser still up seems to be struggling — a fundraiser for his mother Wendy Rittenhouse on the Christian crowdsourcing site GiveSendGo has raised just $635 of its $150,000 goal in the several weeks it has been online.
On Twitter, FreeKyleUSA stated that a trust is being set up to handle the donations. “Following the recommendation of attorneys and accountants everywhere, we’ve been offline for a few weeks to set up an independent irrevocable trust strictly for the benefit of Kyle. John Pierce opposed that idea. It is clear that by doing so, we made the right decision,” the account tweeted.
Racine attorney Mark Richards is continuing to handle Rittenhouse’s criminal defense.