Man charged in Apple River knife attack hires Rittenhouse attorney


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

Nicolae Miu, 52, appeared by video Friday for the brief hearing and informed the court that he has secured Corey Chirafisi, a Madison attorney who won not guilty verdicts for Rittenhouse on all charges from a jury in November after he testified that he acted in self-defense. The case fueled national debate over guns, vigilantism and racial injustice.

When questioned by law enforcement after Saturday’s encounter on the Apple River, Miu said he acted in self-defense as several people came at him while he was looking for a cellphone that a friend lost. He said some of them “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 connection with the killing of 17-year-old Isaac Schuman and wounding four others in their 20s. Miu is due back in court next Friday for a followup hearing.

Rittenhouse was charged with homicide, attempted homicide and reckless endangering for killing two men and wounding a third with an AR-style semi-automatic 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.

Rittenhouse, then a 17-year-old former police youth cadet, said that he went to Kenosha to protect property from rioters but that he came under attack and feared for his life. He is white, as were those he shot.

Rittenhouse could have gotten life in prison if found guilty on the most serious charge, first-degree intentional homicide. Two other charges each carried over 60 years behind bars.

On Saturday afternoon near Somerset, Wis., the victims and Miu were all tubing down the river around 3:45 p.m., 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 killed Schuman with a stab wound to his upper abdomen before stabbing or slashing the others, according to the charges.

Ryhley Mattison was one of the four who survived being stabbed. The attack has kept her in Regions Hospital in St. Paul for nearly a week while 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 last weekend, when they stepped in on behalf of a younger group that alleged Miu was making sexually suggestive comments.

“My friend said [to Miu] he needed to go away, he needed to leave,” Mattison recalled. “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 did remember being in water below her waist, and “he 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 recalled not knowing what to do, and “everything else was a blur. I was pushed down the river a little bit. The cops pulled me out of the river, and they laid me down until the ambulance came.”

Miu’s claims of self-defense are not convincing to Mattison, explaining 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.”

Of the other three who were survived being stabbed, Mattison said that two brothers from Luck, Wis., left the hospital earlier in the week, but another friend is still at Regions and may need further surgery.

The whole episode has left Mattison reluctant to socialize in a group setting anytime soon and has vowed never to go tubing 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.



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