Los Angeles attorney John M. Pierce is stepping down from his position on the Kyle Rittenhouse defense team, as he faces accusations of corruption and witness intimidation.
According to the Chicago Tribune, he announced the decision just hours after prosecutors in Wisconsin moved to block him from being involved with the case, alleging that his fundraising tactics “provide ample opportunity for self-dealing and fraud.”
It is not clear whether the motion would have been successful, but Pierce clearly did not want to risk waiting around to find out. Many critics have suggested that he left the team so quickly because he was concerned about provoking investigations into his fundraising tactics.
In a motion filed Thursday morning, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger cited public records and news reports as evidence that Pierce has “significant personal financial difficulties” and could use money from Rittenhouse’s defense to pay his own bills.
Binger expressed concerns about how “money that should be held in trust for the defendant may instead be used to repay attorney Pierce’s numerous creditors.”
According to the court filing, Pierce had no income on record for last year, but still maintains monthly expenses of $49,581. He also allegedly owes about $1.2 million for a variety of different debts. Prosecutors also claim that Pierce has violated procedural law about what can and cannot be said in the media before a trial.
Hours after the motion was filed, Pierce tweeted, “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.”
The court filing also raised concerns about the #FightBack Foundation, which has been fundraising online for Rittenhouse.
One thing that was not mentioned in the court filing is that Pierce has been accused of intimidating witnesses who made statements to the police about the shooting.
One witness recently told Mother Jones that Pierce sent men to snoop around her former apartment and ask her neighbors questions about her. The men said that they were investigators and refused to identify themselves.
She then began to receive disturbing phone calls, including one incident where a call came directly from Pierce’s office. When she answered the call that came from his office, there was nothing but silence on the other end. Members of Pierce’s team also made repeat calls to friends and family of the witness.
The witness feared for her life and began digging into Pierce’s background, finding that he has been accused of harassment and intimidation in the past.
A Medium post written by a former employee of Pierce’s says that he viciously harassed his ex-wife, once sending her more than 60 threatening messages in one day, including a threat to “bury” her because she couldn’t drive their son to soccer practice. The text messages were later confirmed by court documents.
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