Defense lawyers for accused killer Kyle Rittenhouse, who is in jail after allegedly fatally shooting two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, have insisted that he act in self-defense only.
But Rittenhouse's attorney, John Pierce, is doing a more passionate, perhaps novel, case to win his client's freedom. Pierce argues that Rittenhouse is the first hero of a new American revolution.
"Kyle Rittenhouse will go down in American history along with the brave, unknown patriot in Lexington Green who launched The Shot Heard Round the World on April 19, 1775," Pierce wrote on Tuesday in a tweet that has since been deleted. "A second American revolution against tyranny has begun."
While not a criminal defense attorney, Pierce has become the public face of a growing legal and financial effort to acquit Rittenhouse. He appeared on Fox News with Tucker Carlson and promised to send a "Special Forces Team" of lawyers to Wisconsin and take the unusual step of posting audio from a phone call to Rittenhouse on Twitter to thank his supporters .
Pierce teamed up with famed defamation attorney Lin Wood to create the #FightBack Foundation, a nonprofit with a dizzying array of goals including saving Rittenhouse, combating surveillance abuse and ending human trafficking. This fundraiser was endorsed by right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin and former New York Police Department Commissioner Bernie Kerik. At least some of the money donated to the foundation by Rittenhouse supporters will go to Pierce's own law firm, Pierce Bainbridge, as part of legal defense, according to Pierce.
What donors may not realize, however, is that Pierce and the once well-known company he founded were in millions of dollars in debt while a payday lender-style loan to cover his own expenses prompted him to vacation to take. As Pierce's company lurches around him, he appears to be using Rittenhouse's legal defense to impersonate a new person as trash-talking right-wing fireworks.
When asked to comment on this story, Pierce did not address directly the turmoil in his company or the allegations of financial mismanagement made against him.
"I'm not quite the rapeseed callion you seem Will;)" wrote Pierce in an email. "But I love my God, my country and Notre Dame, and I will fight to the death for Kyle Rittenhouse."
Pierce's associate in the Rittenhouse case offered a qualified defense. Wood said the # FightBack Foundation would have strict rules for approving expenses, including making payments to Pierce's company.
"I have to draw a fine line, a sharp line between his involvement with the foundation and his defense of Kyle," said Wood.
When asked about Pierce's financial troubles, Wood said he didn't know enough about it to comment.
"I'll say this broadly, if you're looking for an impeccable lawyer in this country, good luck," said Wood, who has represented Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann in lawsuits against various media outlets. "The last time I checked was that we are all sinners, and that includes non-lawyers."
Pierce started Pierce Bainbridge as a boutique litigation firm in January 2017 after strangely shortening a number of white-shoe law firms. Despite questions about his senior legal retirement, Pierce was able to attract talented attorneys to his offices in New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and Boston, and received positive reviews for Pierce Bainbridge.
A magazine profile asked if Pierce Bainbridge was "the fastest growing law firm in Big Law," and Pierce stated that Pierce Bainbridge would end up being the best litigation firm in the country.
"We're really creating SEAL Team Six for litigation," Pierce stated in March 2019.
Pierce funded at least part of the firm's expansion with millions of dollars from Pravati Capital, a niche lender that offers law firms start-up funding.
At the same time, Pierce Bainbridge took on a number of high profile video game lawsuits representing rapper 2 Milly and former star of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Alfonso Ribeiro, in cases alleging their dances were stolen and passed on to gamers with Mega -The popular game Fortnite and a former wrestler who claimed its image was defaced and used on a character in Microsoft's Gears of War game. The company also represented Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and several Trumpworld characters, including Rudy Giuliani and former Trump campaign characters George Papadopoulos and Carter Page.
Internally, Pierce bragged about a willingness to push boundaries.
"It's so great that I've never been arrested, sanctioned, or sued for anything," Pierce wrote on a Pierce Bainbridge Slack channel, according to court records. “I know exactly where the leash is and sometimes I get out if I tip my toe. It is so much fun. "
At the same time, Pierce began acting erratically towards his ex-wife, as evidenced by recordings of text messages filed in a Los Angeles custody case. In the news, Pierce allegedly referred to the Apocalypse and stated, "I'll find you in Armageddon and fuck you."
"I'm good," Pierce reportedly wrote. "You are angry. God is on my side. I will chase you and fuck you. "
Pierce allegedly mocked his ex-wife for politics, claiming he and Gabbard, a Pierce Bainbridge client, were "kidding" fascist neo-Nazi socialist mother, accusing her of being a "libard" supporting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio. Cortez (DN.Y.).
"ARE YOU A NEO-NAZI AOC THAT LOVES ANTI SEMITE ???" Pierce wrote in a message.
In another case, Pierce was referring to the TV show 24 star hero torturing terrorists.
"Check out Jack Bauer on the 24th if you're curious what I'm capable of," Pierce reportedly wrote.
Pierce has extensive personal debt, according to a 2019 court file filed during his custody trial. As of November 2019, Pierce alleged in these documents that he owed the IRS $ 850,000, along with an additional $ 200,000 in other taxes. Overall, Pierce said he made nearly $ 20,000 monthly payments on various debts.
Allegations of a dire financial situation at Pierce Bainbridge himself became public in May 2019 when Don Lewis, a former partner and classmate of Pierce at Harvard Law, filed a lawsuit alleging Pierce Bainbridge exaggerated the value of his litigation proceeds, to get money from lenders. Lewis claimed, for example, that Pierce Bainbridge internally insisted that the lawsuit against Gears of War was valued at $ 1 billion. Instead, the Gears of War case was dismissed.
While Lewis claims he was fired for refusing to engage in financial mismanagement, Pierce Bainbridge has denied the allegations, sued him for extortion and countered that Lewis' employment was based on an investigation into allegations made by a lawyer, Lewis sexually harassed her, ended. Both the company and Lewis, who refused to act inappropriately, are currently co-defendants in a retaliatory lawsuit filed last month by the paralegal.
Whatever the truth of Lewis' claims, Pierce Bainbridge was already facing financial pressures. In March 2019, Pravati Capital reported in a mortgage that Pierce Bainbridge was in default on a loan of more than $ 9 million. Two months later, Pravati announced the end of his relationship with the company.
While the $ 9 million lien was later repaid, even more ominous financial troubles surfaced for Pierce and his company this spring, sparking a cascade of setbacks. In April, Law360 reported that the law firm owed another litigation financer, Virage Capital Management, a whopping $ 65 million and was tracking down former partners to request payment. In June, Virage announced that Pierce Bainbridge was in default.
The company's financial troubles affected Pierce himself. In March 2020, John Pierce and Pierce Bainbridge were sued by a payday lender-style financial firm called Karish Capital, which provides emergency money to businesses. Karish Kapital claimed Pierce personally took out a nearly $ 4 million loan and signed the company's assets as collateral.
In a statement to The American Lawyer, a Pierce Bainbridge spokesman said Pierce is on "indefinite leave" and has "accepted money from Karish Capital LLC for his personal use." In May, Pierce announced to Law360 that he had gone into rehab for unspecified issues.
Pierce's loan from Karish Capital marked the start of a cascade of bad news for the company. On April 9th, three named partners left the company. James Bainbridge, the last remaining named partner after Pierce, started his own company in July, although he remains a partner at Pierce Bainbridge. As of May, more than 60 lawyers had left the firm in the past six months, according to Law360.
"More than a dozen of these attorneys told Law360 that they had left the company because of a combination of frustration at an alleged lack of organization in the firm and concerns about the financial situation, among other things," Law360 reported in April.
The company's financial problems have somehow gotten worse. Pierce Bainbridge has been sued by at least three other lenders since March, two of whom claim Pierce cut deals with them and cut the company's revenue on a daily basis to repay the loans. Taken together, the three lenders owe Pierce Bainbridge nearly $ 600,000. In August, a legal services firm sued Pierce Bainbridge over unpaid bills for $ 135,000.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, former Pierce Bainbridge partner Lewis was amused by Pierce's new role as representative of Rittenhouse.
"This guy is like a maniac on Twitter trying to piss people off and get money," said Lewis.
The possibility that money donated to the #FightBack Foundation could be misused has been criticized by various right-wing figures, including Robert Barnes, an attorney for conspiracy theory outlet InfoWars who has conflicted with Wood in the past. Amid the criticism, Pierce announced that he would be stepping down from the charitable board but would continue to represent Rittenhouse.
Days before stepping down, Pierce urged his Twitter fans to keep donating to the foundation. When the donation link allegedly stopped working, Pierce suggested that a malicious conspiracy was underway.
"Dark forces are at work," Pierce warned in a tweet.