|Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney|
|Assumed office |
|Governor||Tony Evers (2019-present)|
Scott Walker (2014-2019)
|Lieutenant Governor||Mandela Barnes (2019-present)|
Rebecca Kleefisch (2014-2019)
|Milwaukee County Prosecutor|
|Governor||Jim Doyle (2003-2005)
Scott McCallum (2001-2003)Tommy Thompson (1999-2001)
|Lieutenant Governor||Barbara Lawton (2003-2005)
Margaret A. Farrow (2001-2003)Scott McCallum (1999-2001)
Thomas Clair Binger is an American lawyer and government official who has served in the role of Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney since 2014. He is native to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he attended the local Washington High School. He ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the office of the Racine County District Attorney in 2016. He served as the lead prosecutor in the 2021 trial of Kyle Rittenhouse following the 2020 Kenosha unrest shooting.
Early life and education
Between 1999 and 2005, Binger worked for the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office as a prosecutor. Following this, he worked in private practice for nine years before becoming an Assistant District Attorney for Kenosha County in 2014. As of November 2021, he continues to work in his role as an Assistant District Attorney for Kenosha County.
State v. Rittenhouse
Binger served as the lead prosecutor in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse that followed the Kenosha unrest shooting during which Rittenhouse shot three individuals. As lead prosecutor in a jury trial, Binger had the responsibility to prove to a jury that Rittenhouse had committed all offenses with which he had been charged beyond a reasonable doubt.
Hearings held prior to the start of the trial showed a contentious atmosphere between Binger and Wisconsin circuit court judge Bruce Schroeder, who presided over the criminal case. In February 2021, Schroeder declined a motion by Binger to have Rittenhouse arrested after Rittenhouse allegedly violated conditions of his bail by failing to report a change of address. In a separate pre-trial hearing that took place in October 2021, Schroeder ordered Binger to refrain from referring to witnesses as "victims", drawing ire from Binger.
Schroeder and Binger would continue to clash multiple times throughout the trial itself. Binger drew sharp criticism from Schroeder for his line of questioning directed towards Rittenhouse; Schroeder deemed a portion of questioning that questioned the motivation for Rittenhouse's silence to be a "grave constitutional violation", referring to the right to remain silent guaranteed by the fifth amendment, and admonished Binger for bringing up aspects of a prior incident involving Rittenhouse that had been previously ruled inadmissable. Later, Binger criticized Schroeder for what Binger described as a "fairness issue" pertaining to the judge's handling of the defense's introduction of evidence into the trial.
Citing state ethics guidelines, Binger told media on November 16 that he would not make public comments about the trial following a jury verdict. Three days later, Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges by the jury, ending the criminal case against him.
In 2016, while working as a Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney, Binger unsuccessfully ran for the office of the Racine County District Attorney. Binger announced his candidacy in a Facebook post on April 25, 2016, stating that he would seek election to the role as a candidate of the Democratic Party. His Republican opponent, Tricia Hanson, announced her candidacy the following day.
Binger focused his campaign on two top priorities—to address local problems caused by the opioid epidemic in the United States and to improve coordination between the Racine County District Attorney's office and the local victim's office, which provides support to crime victims. He campaigned to create a treatment program for non-violent drug offenders in which drug addicts would be administered Naltrexone over a twelve month period in order to allow addicts to avoid prison. He argued that the treatment program would help to reduce the aggregate demand for illegal drugs in Racine County. Binger also supported the creation of separate mental health courts and sought to reduce what he described as racial disparities in how Wisconsinites are arrested and prosecuted.
Financing for Binger's campaign came largely from lawyers and political committees. He received financial support from local affiliates of the Democratic party, a United Auto Workers-affiliated PAC, as well as the campaign of then-Wisconsin state representative Cory Mason. He also financed his campaign with a ten-thousand dollar loan from himself, as well as donations from other individual and group donors.
Binger lost the election to Hanson; Binger earned 36,988 votes while Hanson earned 51,074 votes.
- "Lawyer Search". State Bar of Wisconsin. Retrieved November 20, 2021.
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- Spoto, Cara (October 2, 2016). "Binger: Litigation skills, new ideas needed in DA's office". The Journal Times.
- Jorgensen, Don (November 18, 2021). "Sioux Falls native at the center of Rittenhouse murder trial". KELO-TV. Nexstar Media.
- Spoto, Cara (November 9, 2016). "Hanson to be next Racine County district attorney". The Journal Times.
- Anderson, Janine (May 1, 2016). "Local attorney to run for Racine D.A." Kenosha News.
- Hinkel, Dan (November 2, 2021). "The lead prosecutor has clashed with the judge in pretrial hearings". The New York Times.
- Mintz, Hillary (October 28, 2021). "Who is the prosecutor in the Kyle Rittenhouse case?". WISN-TV.
- Richmond, Todd (October 30, 2021). "A look at key players in the upcoming Kyle Rittenhouse trial". Kenosha News. Associated Press.
- Kuhagen, Christopher (November 12, 2021). "Thomas Binger is the lead prosecutor in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. Here's more on the Kenosha County assistant district attorney". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Schnell, Lindsay (November 20, 2021). "The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, explained: 'If you believe him when he says self-defense, then you have to acquit him'". USA Today.
- "Judge declines new arrest warrant for Kyle Rittenhouse". Al Jazeera. Associated Press. February 11, 2021.
- Vielmetti, Bruce (October 26, 2021). "Judge bars prosecutors from referring to men Kyle Rittenhouse shot as 'victims,' but will allow defense to use 'looters'". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Hughes, Clyde; Hayes, Danielle (November 11, 2021). "Judge, prosecutor clash during Kyle Rittenhouse trial; defense rests". United Press International.
- Forliti, Amy; Bauer, Scott (November 10, 2021). "EXPLAINER: What's Behind Rittenhouse Mistrial Requests?". NBC Chicago.
- "Prosecutor in Kyle Rittenhouse Case Says He Won't Speak to Media Following End of Trial". NBC Chicago. November 16, 2021.
- Layne, Nathan (November 20, 2021). "Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty of all charges in Wisconsin murder trial". Reuters.
- Schaff, Mark (April 26, 2016). "Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete won't seek re-election". The Journal Timees.
- Spoto, Cara (October 6, 2016). "Following intense day, DA candidates talk crime, prosecution". The Journal Times.
- Spoto, Cara (October 17, 2016). "Loans making up fair share of DA campaign dollars". The Journal Times.
- Spoto, Cara (October 7, 2016). "Following intense day, DA candidates talk crime, prosecution". The Journal Times.