More than four months after he was charged with killing two protesters and wounding a third during civil unrest in Kenosha, Kyle Rittenhouse formally entered not guilty pleas Tuesday, triggering the next phases of what is still expected to be a very drawn-out case.
Rittenhouse has become a symbol to both sides in the national debate over race and justice, law and order, and guns. To the left, he’s what happens when vigilante militia go unchecked. To supporters who’ve donated millions of dollars to his defense and bail, he’s a hero and a patriot.
During a Zoom hearing Tuesday before Kenosha County Court Commissioner Loren Keating, Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards of Racine, entered the not guilty pleas to all counts for his client. Rittenhouse was in Richards’ office and did not speak during the brief hearing. Both he and his attorney were wearing masks.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger said he has an external hard drive with all the state’s discovery material – extensive videos and reports – that he would turn over this week.
Richards said even if he got the discovery this week, an expected trial date of March 29 seemed “ridiculous,” and Binger agreed they would likely discuss that at a pretrial date before Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder on March 10.
Rittenhouse, who turned 18 on Sunday, is charged with five felonies: first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Joseph Rosenbaum, 36; first-degree reckless homicide of Anthony Huber, 26, attempted first-degree intentional homicide of Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety, for shots fired at others.
He also charged with being a minor in possession of a firearm, a misdemeanor, and with violating a curfew in effect on Aug. 25, a civil citation.
He’s been free on $2 million bail since Nov. 2, staying with his mother and lawyer at an undisclosed address.
Rittenhouse, armed with an AR-15 style rifle, joined dozens of other armed men that night. He told journalists, and later police, that he was protecting a used car business. His deadly encounters with protesters were captured on videos which have been cited as evidence by both prosecutors and defense counsel, who say he acted in self-defense.
After the shootings, Rittenhouse walked toward police officers with his hands up, but they told him to get out of the street. He and a friend drove back to Illinois, where, with his mother, he turned himself into local police.
Within two days, the family had aligned with Atlanta lawyer Lin Wood, who brought in controversial Los Angeles lawyer John Pierce to lead a defense team that tried to fight Rittenhouse’s extradition to Wisconsin, and beat the bushes of social media to raise money for his defense.
Questions have arisen about where the more than $2 million raised went. Wood is no longer representing Rittenhouse. Pierce continues to appear with Wendy Rittenhouse on right-wing news outlets and to use social media to solicit donations and portray Rittenhouse as the victim of a political prosecution.
Three other people face criminal charges from that evening. Dominic Black is charged with two counts of providing a rifle to Rittenhouse when he was a minor.
Joshua Ziminski, 35, who prosecutors say fired a shot near Rittenhouse seconds before Rittenhouse shot and killed Rosenbaum, is charged with disorderly conduct with a dangerous weapon, a misdemeanor. His wife, Kelly Ziminski, is charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer, both misdemeanors, and violating curfew, a civil citation.
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