Man charged in fatal Apple River knife attack retains Kyle Rittenhouse’s lawyer

A Prior Lake man facing murder charges but claiming self-defense in a knife attack at a western Wisconsin river that killed a Stillwater teenager and wounded four others has retained a lawyer who defended Kyle Rittenhouse, acquitted of fatally shooting two people in the summer of 2020 during civil unrest in Kenosha, Wis.

Nicolae Miu, 52, who appeared by video for a brief hearing Friday, told the court he has secured attorney Corey Chirafisi of Madison, Wis.

Chirafisi won not guilty verdicts for Rittenhouse on all charges in November, after the teenager testified he acted in self-defense in a case that fueled a national debate over guns, vigilantism and racial injustice.

Miu told authorities that he acted in self-defense when several people confronted him as he searched for a friend’s lost cellphone Saturday in the Apple River. He said some of the people “produced two weapons,” hit him and were on top of him at one point while calling him a child molester.

Miu remains jailed in lieu of $1 million cash bond. He was charged Monday in St. Croix County Circuit Court in Hudson with first-degree homicide and four counts of attempted first-degree homicide in the death of 17-year-old Isaac Schuman and wounding of four others.

Miu is due back in court next Friday for a followup hearing. Chirafisi was not present for Friday’s hearing.

Rittenhouse was charged with homicide, attempted homicide and reckless endangering for killing two men and wounding a third with a semiautomatic rifle in the summer of 2020 during a tumultuous night of protests over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer.

Legal analysts credited Chirafisi with drawing out a major concession from a prosecution witness that helped sway the jury in Rittenhouse’s favor.

Chirafisi, who handled much of the witness testimony on the Rittenhouse defense team, asked protester Gaige Grosskreutz: “It wasn’t until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him … that he fired, right?”

“Correct,” replied Grosskreutz, who also was acting as a volunteer medic during the protest.

Wisconsin’s self-defense law allows deadly force only if “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.”

On Saturday afternoon near Somerset, Wis., the victims and Miu were tubing down the river around 3:45 pm, when the encounter happened just upstream from the Hwy. 35/64 bridge, close to the Minnesota border and northeast of Stillwater.

A key piece of evidence in the case is a video recorded by a man in a group of 20-something tubers, some of whom shoved Miu and accused him of looking for underage girls, according to the charges. After a few minutes, Miu fatally stabbed Schuman in the upper abdomen before stabbing or slashing the others, according to the charges.

Ryhley Mattison, one of the attack’s four survivors, remains in Regions Hospital in St. Paul on Friday as she recovers from a punctured lung and an injured diaphragm.

The 24-year-old from the Twin Cities said she was among about a dozen friends relaxing at the river when they stepped in on behalf of a younger group that allegedly Miu was making sexually suggestive comments.

“My friend said [to Miu] he needed to go away, he needed to leave,” Mattison said. “He ended up punching her in the face.”

Mattison, acknowledging that she had been drinking, continued, “Maybe I yelled at him or punched him back.”

She said she was in water below her waist and Miu “was just standing there, staring at me, and he lunged at me. It felt like he punched me in the side. I looked down, and I was bleeding out.”

Mattison said she did not know what to do and “everything else was a blur.”

“I was pushed down the river a little bit,” she said. “The cops pulled me out of the river, and they laid me down until the ambulance came.”

Mattison said Miu’s claims of self-defense are not convincing. She said that while “maybe we were wrong for confronting him … everything he did was horrible. Punching my friend in the face and then stabbing me, that’s ridiculous.”

Mattison said two of the other stabbing victims — brothers from Luck, Wis. — left the hospital earlier in the week. But she said another friend remains in Regions and may need further surgery.

Mattison said the incident has left her reluctant to socialize in a group setting anytime soon and vowed never to tube again on the Apple River, which has long been a major summertime attraction for Twin Cities-area residents.

“Honestly, I’m a little nervous,” said Mattison, who is between jobs and is counting on a GoFundMe campaign to make ends meet. “I know I’ve got to live my life. I’m obviously not going to hide out in my house, but I’m definitely going to be more cautious with where I go and what I do.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.