A Norfolk, Virginia police officer who donated $25 to a defense fund for Kyle Rittenhouse was fired after a security breach exposed the information of countless small-dollar donors and media outlets exploited and publicized certain names on the list.
Sgt. William Kelly, the executive officer of internal affairs in the Norfolk police department, left a comment along with his donation to Rittenhouse, who is accused of murdering two left-wing protesters amid riots, violence, and looting that broke out in Kenosha, Wisconsin last August after a police-involved shooting. Rittenhouse says he fired in self defense and his defense team has released videos taken on the night in question that appear to support his contention.
"God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong. Every rank and file police officer supports you. Don’t be discouraged by actions of the political class of law enforcement leadership," Kelly said, according to The Guardian.
After his arrest, Rittenhouse became a cause celebre for conservative media and received the backing of then-President Donald Trump, according to the Guardian.
He received more than $500,000 in contributions to his legal defense through a fundraiser he held on the Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo.
Public officials frequently donate to or promote crowdfunding campaigns. Vice President Kamala Harris, just weeks before she was picked to be President Joe Biden's running mate on the Democrat ticket, tweeted her support for the Minnesota Freedom Fund, which was used to bail accused rioters and protesters out of jail after social justice demonstrations swept the nation during the summer.
Kelly was identified due to a security breach on the GiveSendGo site.
After the donation became known, Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone said Kelly was initially reassigned to another division pending the results of a probe, although he did not identify Kelly in that original statement, Wavy News reported.
On Tuesday, Norfolk City Manager Chip Filer released a statement announcing the firing of Kelly, stating that "Boone and I have concluded Lt. Kelly’s actions are in violation of City and departmental policies. His egregious comments erode the trust between the Norfolk Police Department and those they are sworn to serve. The City of Norfolk has a standard of behavior for all employees, and we will hold staff accountable."
But the city’s police union president, Clay Messick, told The Virginian-Pilot the decision to fire Kelly was "disappointing." Messick said he has never seen an administrative probe carried out "so hastily."
"We were hoping for a full, transparent investigation," he said. "But after 72 hours, I do not believe that is what we got. It is hard to call this fair."
The Guardian article noted the crowdfunding site's data breach revealed that numerous serving police officers and public officials have donated money to fundraisers for those accused of crimes — cases in which the defendants haven't been convicted and are presumed innocent.
The breach was shared with media members by transparency group Distributed Denial of Secrets. The info revealed the details of some donors who had previously attempted to conceal their identities for reasons of safety or privacy.
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