The ex-wife of the Kenosha shooting suspect's lawyer John Pierce sought a restraining order against him, alleging he made text threats and showed 'erratic and aggressive behavior'

  • John Pierce is the lawyer representing Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old charged in connection with shootings that killed two people and injured a third amid unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
  • Pierce has been urging people to donate to a legal-defense fund. He remains embroiled in multiple lawsuits related to his law firm and its finances.
  • Pierce has worked at top law firms including Quinn Emanuel, Latham & Watkins, and K&L Gates.
  • His ex-wife alleged in newly surfaced court papers that Pierce lost his job at K&L Gates after getting into a physical altercation.
  • "That is really classy," Pierce said in a texted response to a request for comment from Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The ex-wife of John Pierce, the lawyer defending the teenager charged in the Kenosha, Wisconsin, shootings, alleged in court papers filed last year that the former Big Law attorney has a history of violence and drug abuse.

Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, has been charged with multiple crimes, including first-degree intentional homicide, in connection with a shooting at a Black Lives Matter protest where two people were killed and a third was injured.

Pierce's ex-wife sought and obtained a restraining order against him in July 2019, alleging that Pierce had sent her texts including threats like, "I will find u at Armaggedon and f— u up. Personally," and, "Watch Jack Bauer on 24 if ur curious what I'm capable of," after a dispute arose about childcare. She also alleged that he had shown "erratic and aggressive behavior" at earlier points in their marriage.

"In May 2016, Respondent lost his job at K&L Gates for physically assaulting another employee," she wrote in a sworn declaration, referring to Pierce. "Respondent detached his retina during the altercation. It was believed that the altercation was a result of Respondent's drug and alcohol abuse, and so arrangements were made for Respondent to check-in to rehab… Respondent refused to go."

According to Law360, Pierce's law firm, Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP, is in deep debt. He resorted to a form of high-rate financing called merchant cash advances last year to keep the doors open, according to lawsuits filed by the lenders, one of which won a $4 million judgment against the firm in July. The firm had represented several conservative and less-prominent political figures, including Carter Page, Michael Avenatti, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and Rudy Giuliani.

In recent days, Pierce has been urging members of the public to contribute to an entity called the #FightBack Foundation that could make payments to Pierce, a commercial litigator, and other lawyers to defend Rittenhouse and engage in other litigation, like suing social-media companies.

Money has poured in, according to Rittenhouse's supporters. The foundation, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that doesn't have to disclose its donors, has raised over $605,000, according to a tweet by attorney L. Lin Wood on Monday. Another fund on the website GiveSendGo says it has raised over $380,000 for Rittenhouse's defense.

Pierce's ex-wife said she believed he made millions that could be used to pay child support, but Pierce said in a court document that he made no income whatsoever from Pierce Bainbridge, had just $10,000 to his name, and was slowly paying off over $800,000 in debt to the IRS.

When Business Insider asked Pierce for comment about the allegations on Thursday, he said in a text message, "That is really classy."

In March, The American Lawyer reported that Pierce was on leave from his firm and accused of accepting funds from a business lender for his personal use. Pierce returned to the firm and said the leave was voluntary and meant to address substance-use issues, according to Law360.

Only a handful of lawyers remain at the firm, and Pierce has recently been using a new firm name in connection with the #FightBack fund: Pierce Bainbridge PC.

Meanwhile, litigation against Pierce goes on. The family-court filings surfaced in August in a fee lawsuit brought by Bruce Chasan, a Pennsylvania lawyer who alleges Pierce unethically poached his client and owes him money. They have been amplified by Don Lewis, a former Pierce Bainbridge partner who alleges he was wrongfully fired.

Pierce's biography on a press release announcing his involvement with the #FightBack Foundation included a general reference to social-media attacks.

"Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Medium routinely allow former Pierce Bainbridge employees terminated for misconduct to post defamatory content about him on an almost daily basis in a manner never before seen in the legal industry," the biography said.

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