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Suspect in Apple River stabbing hires prominent self-defense attorney

Nicolae Miu hired attorney Corey Chirafisi, who was one of two attorneys who helped get a full acquittal for Kyle Rittenhouse last year.
Credit: KARE

HUDSON, Wis. — The man charged with first-degree homicide and four counts of first-degree attempted homicide following a deadly stabbing on the Apple River has hired a prominent self-defense attorney to represent him throughout his trial.

During a brief court appearance Friday, Nicolae Miu said he's hired attorney Corey Chirafisi, who was one of two attorneys who helped get a full acquittal for Kyle Rittenhouse last year. Chriafisi was not present for Friday's hearing.

Miu told police he acted in self-defense on July 30 when he stabbed five people, including 17-year-old Isaac Schuman. The other four people were transported to the hospital with serious injuries. Three of the four people have since been discharged, but the fourth remains hospitalized after having multiple surgeries.

According to the criminal complaint, Miu was out on the river with his wife and friends when the incident occurred. Prosecutors say Miu pulled a knife with a blade approximately three inches long from his pocket and lashed out at a group of younger people during a confrontation, fatally stabbing 17-year-old Isaac Schuman of Stillwater and seriously wounding four others. 

The details of what led up to the stabbing are complicated, and ultimately, it could come down to whether or not Mui had the opportunity to walk away before he began stabbing.

One of the surviving stabbing victims, Ryhley Mattison spoke after being discharged from the hospital on Friday, saying she and a female friend confronted Miu because they heard some younger tubers in another group felt uncomfortable with how he was acting. 

Mattison said she had been drinking and tubing with her friends when they were told by another group of tubers Miu was making inappropriate comments about younger girls. While telling him to leave, Mattison says Miu turned violent.

"My friend...she told him he needed to leave, and asked him to leave and I think he got upset from there, and he ended up punching her in the face," said Mattison in a phone interview. "After that, all I remember is (asking my friend), 'Are you OK?' 

"I'm not sure if I hit him because I was so upset about him hitting my friend, or if I yelled at him or if I said something to make him mad."

Mattison said that's when Miu stabbed her.

"He didn't lunge — he was close enough to where he could just put his hand up and poke me in my side," she said. "I thought he had punched me, I just held my side for a sec and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, that really hurt."

RELATED: Does the Apple River stabbing suspect have a strong self-defense claim?

Twin Cities defense attorney Eric Nelson successfully represented a client in a high-profile stabbing self-defense case in Wisconsin in 2015. The case ended in acquittal on all counts. Nelson told KARE 11 the details in this case are more complex, and despite Miu having a self-defense claim, Nelson pointed out problems with his self-defense claim.

"The most notable thing, in my opinion, is there are several references (in the criminal complaint) to 'route of egress,' or his ability to flee the situation," Nelson said.

In the complaint, prosecutors describe a video of the incident that reflects the defendant swimming up to a group of juveniles with a diving mask and snorkel and grabbing their tubes. The video reportedly shows multiple people surround Miu and yelling at him, capturing members of the group accusing the defendant of "looking for little girls." Prosecutors maintain it was clear Miu had opportunity to walk away from the situation.

As the confrontation escalated, the video showed the group appearing to move toward the defendant, and he was pushed backwards into the water, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors said the video shows Miu get up with the knife in his hand before he's pushed back into the water by a tuber wearing yellow shorts. Court documents said as the tuber advanced, to apparently shove him again, the defendant stabbed him in the abdomen, and then used the knife to stab others.

According to Nelson, Wisconsin essentially has a duty for someone to retreat, if possible, before using deadly force. Another element that could make the trial even more complicated is that a woman involved in the confrontation told police "what started the physical assault was Miu punched the woman."

"You can't claim self-defense if you're the first aggressor or you're engaged in unlawful conduct that provokes another to assault you," Nelson said.

That punch was apparently not caught on the bystander video, which is not publicly available.

Miu is scheduled for another court hearing on Friday, Aug. 12.

RELATED: Homicide charge filed in Apple River stabbing spree

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