Note: The latest updates on what happened at Kyle Rittenhouse's extradition hearing can be found here.
The 17-year-old charged with fatally shooting two people and injuring a third during unrest in Kenosha last month is scheduled to appear in court Friday for a hearing on whether or not he'll be extradited to Wisconsin.
Kyle Rittenhouse, from the Chicago suburb of Antioch, is facing charges of first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide, among others, following the Aug. 25 shooting, which took place just days after a Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back.
Rittenhouse was armed with a semi-automatic rifle as he walked Kenosha's streets with other armed civilians during the September protests. He would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree intentional homicide. Under Wisconsin law, anyone 17 or older is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.
The teen's attorneys say he was not only a teenager who acted in self-defense, but also a courageous defender of liberty, a patriot exercising his right to bear arms amid rioting in the streets.
“A 17-year-old citizen is being sacrificed by politicians, but it’s not Kyle Rittenhouse they are after. Their end game is to strip away the constitutional right of all citizens to defend our communities,” says the voice-over at the end of a video released this week by a group tied to Rittenhouse’s legal team.
“Kyle Rittenhouse will go down in American history alongside that brave unknown patriot ... who fired ‘The Shot Heard Round the World,”’ lead attorney John Pierce wrote this month in a tweet he later deleted. “A Second American Revolution against Tyranny has begun.”
But such dramatic rhetoric that has helped raise nearly $2 million for Rittenhouse’s defense may not work with a jury considering charges that could put the teen in prison for life. Legal experts say there could be big risks in turning a fairly straightforward self-defense case into a fight for freedom that mirrors the law-and-order reelection theme President Donald Trump has struck amid a wave of protests over racial injustice.
“They’re playing to his most negative characteristics and stereotypes, what his critics want to perceive him as — a crazy militia member out to cause harm and start a revolution,” said Robert Barnes, a prominent Los Angeles defense attorney.
According to prosecutors, Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, after the protester threw a plastic bag at the teenager, missing him.
But to Pierce, the situation was far more dire. Rosenbaum was the head of a “mob that had become enraged” at the sight of Rittenhouse trying to put out a fire set by arsonists and decided to chase after him, “relentlessly hunting him as prey.” Rittenhouse, in Pierce’s telling, fired only after Rosenbaum began to “assault him from behind” and attempted to take his rifle away.
“I just killed somebody,” Rittenhouse says into his cellphone, according to the complaint filed by prosecutors, as he starts running and several people give chase. “Beat him up!” one person in the crowd says. Another yells, “Get him! Get that dude!”
What happened next, as Pierce put it in a statement, were a series of clear signs captured on cellphone video that Rittenhouse was in possible mortal danger.
A man strikes Rittenhouse as he runs down the street, chased by several people trying to stop him. Rittenhouse falls to the ground and another protester kicks him. Back on his feet and a bit farther down the street, he is struck by a skateboard. He shoots, killing the man with the skateboard, Anthony Huber, 26, and wounding a third person holding a handgun, Gaige Grosskreutz, 26.
Rittenhouse’s high-profile defense and fund-raising teams, led by Los Angeles-based Pierce and Atlanta attorney Lin Wood, respectively, refused to speak to The Associated Press about their strategy ahead of the teen’s next court appearance Friday.
During the hearing, Rittenhouse and his attorneys could waive his right extradition or decide to challenge it, further prolonging his possible return to the state.