Kenosha DA knew Rittenhouse case was a losing proposition and passed to Thomas Binger

Kenosha DA knew Rittenhouse case was a losing proposition and


The choice of prosecutor for Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder case could be a precise pointer as to how little confidence the County District Attorney had in securing a conviction.

Mike Graveley, the Kenosha County DA would normally have taken the case himself, but instead handed it down to prosecutor Thomas Binger, whose presentation of the case in Wisconsin has been marked with missteps and clashes with Judge Bruce Schroeder.

‘Binger was set up for failure,’ one Kenosha legal insider told Dailymail.com. ‘Graveley is the superstar and he knew this one was sure to tarnish it.’

According to conservative outlet Milwaukee Right Now, Graveley ‘pawned the case off to his unfortunate assistant district attorney, Thomas Binger, who was left to spin gold out of a pile of self-defense straw.’

Now court observers believe that even if Rittenhouse is found guilty, Binger’s performance has given him good grounds for appeal.

‘He has said things in court that have been ruled out of order, but once they have been said, you can’t unring that bell,’ Kevin Mathewson, a criminal defense investigator and former Kenosha City alderman told DailyMail.com.

‘This is how Binger has always operated. He pushes the envelope as far as he possibly can — but this time the whole world is watching him.’

Binger, 51, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School is no rookie. He has been an assistant DA in Kenosha County since 2014, and first prosecuted cases in Milwaukee County back in 1999

Binger, 51, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School is no rookie. He has been an assistant DA in Kenosha County since 2014, and first prosecuted cases in Milwaukee County back in 1999

Binger's presentation of the case in Wisconsin has been marked with missteps and clashes with Judge Bruce Schroeder.

Binger's presentation of the case in Wisconsin has been marked with missteps and clashes with Judge Bruce Schroeder.

Binger’s presentation of the case in Wisconsin has been marked with missteps and clashes with Judge Bruce Schroeder

Mathewson, who was unsuccessfully sued over a Facebook page in which he asked for people to turn up with guns to defend property during the August 2020 Kenosha riots, has been a frequent critic of Graveley’s office.

But he says he respects the DA’s prosecuting skills. ‘He is by far the best prosecutor in the office and he should be the one prosecuting the Rittenhouse trial — the most high-profile and difficult case his office is ever likely to handle.

‘It’s not that he hides from publicity. Earlier this year he prosecuted a teenager called Martice Fuller who killed his high school sweetheart and shot at her mother.

‘That was a high-profile case, but it wasn’t a difficult case to prosecute,’ added Mathewson. ‘There was video of the shooting.

‘Just about any prosecutor could have got a conviction.’

Mathewson is not the only one who is hammering Graveley for his absence from the Rittenhouse case. Graveley himself said he would not lead the prosecution as he was investigating the case against the cop who shot Joseph Blake, leading to the unrest in Kenosha during which Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber.

Gravely — who was named Wisconsin’s prosecutor of the year earlier this month — decided way back in January that the officer should not be prosecuted for the shooting which left Blake paralyzed. The DA also said he has to prosecute another case which will likely start before the Rittenhouse case is over.

But those excuses are getting short shrift from some, who believe Rittenhouse either should never have been prosecuted or should have faced lesser charges.

‘It’s time to put DA Mike Graveley’s picture on a milk carton,’ wrote Milwaukee Right Now. 

Graveley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Binger has at times seemed out of his depth as Judge Schroeder and Rittenhouse’s defense team tear into him for a series of missteps.

Former Milwaukee County assistant district attorney Daniel Adams described Binger’s case as ‘incredibly underwhelming.’

‘He’s got nothing,’ Adams told the Associated Press. ‘I just don’t understand it. What are we doing here? We’re all kind of scratching our heads.’

Binger, 51, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School is no rookie. He has been an assistant DA in Kenosha County since 2014, and first prosecuted cases in Milwaukee County back in 1999.

On his LinkedIn page the father-of-three says: ‘I was a criminal prosecutor handling misdemeanor and felony cases, including illegal firearms cases. I also handled child welfare cases, specializing in termination of parental rights cases.’

Mike Graveley, the Kenosha County DA, would normally have taken the case himself, but instead handed it down to prosecutor Thomas Binger. ‘It’s time to put DA Mike Graveley’s picture on a milk carton,’ wrote Milwaukee Right Now

Mike Graveley, the Kenosha County DA, would normally have taken the case himself, but instead handed it down to prosecutor Thomas Binger. ‘It’s time to put DA Mike Graveley’s picture on a milk carton,’ wrote Milwaukee Right Now

After six years prosecuting, he went into private practice as director of litigation for a business law firm before joining the Kenosha County DA’s office.

He ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the post of District Attorney in neighboring Racine County in 2016, saying: ‘In the last two years as a prosecutor, I have won 13 jury trials. I have convicted murderers, rapists, child molesters, drug dealers, drunk drivers, home-invading burglars and men who abuse women.’

One of the most notable cases he has previously prosecuted was of a former New Jersey fire captain who was jailed for five years in 2017 for possessing child pornography and exploiting a child for sexual purposes.

Binger insisted the sentence was not enough, telling Essex News Daily, ‘The state recommended 16 years.’

He was also forced to withdraw a case against Guy Smith, a trucker who was found with a gun in his cab. Smith’s defense attorney pointed out the law specifically allowed handguns in vehicles without a concealed carry permit, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The Smith case was also heard by Judge Schroeder.

But those cases had nothing like the media spotlight that has shone on the Rittenhouse case.

Binger’s role has been controversial since the start. He took the unusual step of objecting to the attempt by California attorney John Pierce to represent Rittenhouse, saying in a six-page motion to the court that Pierce’s presence could ‘materially prejudice’ the case.

He said Pierce’s ‘personal financial difficulties raise significant ethical concerns,’ adding: ‘Given his own substantial personal debts, his involvement with an unregulated and opaque ‘slush fund’ provides ample opportunity for self-dealing and fraud

‘Money that should be held in trust for the defendant may instead be used to repay Attorney Pierce’s numerous creditors.’

Pierce, who claimed the case against Rittenhouse was a ‘political prosecution’ eventually withdrew, leaving the defense in the hands of lawyer Mark Richards.

Binger clashed with Schroeder in pre-trial hearings. Last month the judge ruled against him saying that the men shot by Rittenhouse could not be called ‘victims’ during the trial but allowed a defense motion which allows them to be called rioters, looters or arsonists.

Court observers believe that even if Rittenhouse is found guilty, Binger’s performance has given him good grounds for appeal

Court observers believe that even if Rittenhouse is found guilty, Binger’s performance has given him good grounds for appeal

Binger said those words were more loaded than ‘victims.’

The prosecutor also lost the chance to link Rittenhouse to the right-wing Proud Boys movement.

And Schroeder later slammed him after he argued that defense lawyers should not be able to tell jurors about the destructive actions of Joseph Rosenbaum, one of the men Rittenhouse admits killing, including setting a dumpster on fire.

‘All we’re talking about is arson. We’re talking about being loud and disorderly,’ Binger said.

Schroeder immediately cut him off. ‘I can’t believe some of what you’re saying,’ he said in a raised voice. ‘All we’re talking about is arson? Come on!’

During this month’s trial, Schroeder reprimanded Binger for bringing up a video in which Rittenhouse had talked about wanting to shoot shoplifters. Schroeder had previously ruled that inadmissible

‘You’re an experienced trial attorney and you’re telling me when the judge says, ‘I’m excluding this’ you decide to bring it in because you think you’ve found a way around it,’ Schroeder asked.

Binger replied: ‘You can yell at me if you want. I was acting in good faith.’

Judge Schroeder responded: ‘I don’t believe you. When you say you were acting in good faith, I don’t believe you. There better not be another incident.’

Rittenhouse’s defense accused Binger of knowingly attempting to throw the proceeding because they were going badly for the state. 

 The defense on November 10 demanded a mistrial with prejudice, which would mean that Rittenhouse walks free and a retrial is not possible. Schroeder said he is taking that request under advisement.

Ass’t DA Thomas Binger has locked horns with Judge from the get-go

Thomas Binger is a seven-year veteran at the law office run by Kenosha County’s top prosecutor, Michael Graveley. 

Graveley is not personally handling the high-profile Rittenhouse case because he was tasked with the investigation into the police shooting of Jacob Blake at the time Rittenhouse was charged. It was Blake’s shooting on August 23 that sparked the Kenosha riots. 

Binger and Judge Bruce Schroeder, who sits on Kenosha County Circuit Court, clashed frequently in the run-up to the trial, and the proceedings have been as explosive as expected. 

Schroeder, who at 75 is the longest-serving active circuit judge in Wisconsin, has the reputation of being a stern judge who often hands down tough sentences. 

The website Wisconsin Right Now described his approach as ‘bizarre’, saying that he frequently made moves that seemed to help the defense in their argument that the teenager acted in self-defense – such as discussing the chaos engulfing Rittenhouse as he opened fire, showing videos of violent protest, and leading Rittenhouse to say that he wanted to help people. 

Binger graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1996 and became a criminal prosecutor at the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office in 1999, where he eventually rose to the rank of assistant district attorney. 

He went on to work for the DeMark, Kolbe & Brodek law firm as director of litigation in 2005 before joining the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office in 2014. 

In 2016, Binger ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the district attorney’s seat in Racine County, telling the Journal Times: ‘In the last two years as a prosecutor, I have won 13 jury trials. I have convicted murderers, rapists, child molesters, drug dealers, drunk drivers, home-invading burglars and men who abuse women.’

He is married to Nicole Gustafson-Binger, a mental health counselor for Oakwood Clinical Associates. They have three children.  

In the lead up to the Rittenhouse murder trial, Binger lost the chance to link Rittenhouse to the Proud Boys extremist group. 

He was later strongly criticized by Judge Schroeder, in pre-trial hearings, after arguing that defense lawyers should not be able to tell jurors about Joseph Rosenbaum’s destructive actions during the riot, including setting a dumpster on fire. 

‘All we’re talking about is arson. We’re talking about being loud and disorderly,’ Binger said.

Schroeder cut him off and raised his voice.

‘I can’t believe some of what you’re saying,’ he said. ‘All we’re talking about is arson? Come on!’

Schroeder during the trial reprimanded Binger for bringing up information that had previously been barred from the court about Rittenhouse’s history with an AR-15 rifle. An incident was caught on video two weeks prior to the shootings in which Rittenhouse talked about shooting men he believed were shoplifting at a pharmacy.

Schroeder had already ruled video inadmissible. 

‘You’re an experienced trial attorney and you’re telling me when the judge says, ‘I’m excluding this’ you decide to bring it in because you think you’ve found a way around it,’ Schroeder asked. ‘Come on!’

Binger replied: ‘You can yell at me if you want. I was acting in good faith.’ 

Judge Schroeder responded: ‘I don’t believe you. When you say you were acting in good faith, I don’t believe you. There better not be another incident.’

Rittenhouse’s defense accused Binger of knowingly attempting to throw the proceeding because they were going badly for the state.

The defense on November 10 demanded a mistrial with prejudice, which would mean that Rittenhouse walks free and a retrial is not possible – a disaster for the prosecution. 



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