Prosecutors in the Kyle Rittenhouse case are accusing a defense attorney in the case of violating ethical rules on pretrial publicity, saying the statements create a risk of prejudicing a jury.
In a motion filed Friday, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger asked county Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder to order attorneys on the Rittenhouse case to comply with legal ethics rules that prohibit statements by attorneys that would have a “substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an impartial trial.” They also asked that the court sanction attorneys on the case who violate the court’s order.
John Pierce, Rittenhouse’s attorney, said he had no comment on the prosecution’s motion.
Out on bond
Rittenhouse, 17, of Antioch, Ill. was released Friday on $2 million bail raised by supporters. He is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide for shooting three men, killing two of them, at protests in Kenosha Aug. 25. The protests followed the Aug. 23 police shooting of Jacob Blake during an attempted arrest.
Shortly after Rittenhouse was taken into custody, conservative activist attorneys Pierce and L. Lin Wood signed on as his attorneys — Pierce saying he would represent him on the criminal case, and Wood on any civil cases that are filed. Wood has also been raising money online for Rittenhouse’s defense and both attorneys have been active on social media and in interviews with the media, portraying Rittenhouse as a hero who was defending himself and has said the prosecution is politically motivated.
After Rittenhouse was released from custody Friday at the Kenosha County Detention Center, Pierce tweeted several times about his release, including sharing a photo of a smiling Rittenhouse posing with his mother and actor Ricky Schroder, who paid a portion of the bond.
“Adorable! Eternal gratitude on behalf of Kyle Rittenhouse and his family to all the supporters around the world who helped yesterday happen, most notably the great @LLinWood at the #FightBack Foundation and the brave unknown Patriots who protected Kyle yesterday. #USA,” Schroeder posted on social media.
Pierce and his associate, Andrew Calderon, both based in California, filed for pro hac vice admission late last week to represent Rittenhouse in the criminal case. Prosecutors filed a motion asking for a hearing on their admission. Racine-based attorney Mark Richards is the local attorney representing the teen.
In his motion, Binger said Pierce has violated ethical rules by commenting in interviews “on the character of his client and the victims in the case, expressed his opinion as to his client’s innocence and shared information that he should know would be inadmissible at trial.”
Graveley reportedly target of slanders
Binger alleges that Pierce has also used Twitter to attack the character of Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley.
“He has called for DA Graveley to be recalled by voters and accused him of being tied to George Soros, a billionaire philanthropist who is regularly accused by conservatives of financing various nefarious global plots,” the motion states.
The motion states that Pierce has also called for the criminal prosecution of Gaige Grosskreutz, who survived the Aug. 25 shooting.
“Finally, Attorney Pierce has publicly shared information that is inadmissible at trial and creates a substantial risk of prejudicing an impartial trial,” the motion states. “For example, he has frequently claimed that his client is ‘God-fearing” and ‘service-oriented,’ qualities which are irrelevant to the facts of the case and only serve to encourage jury nullification.”
Rittenhouse is next expected to appear in court on Dec. 3 for a preliminary hearing.