Defense attorneys for 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse have consistently maintained that their client was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed two men during unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August, arguing that the teenager was being chased by a group of people, including one man who fired a shot into the air while pursuing Rittenhouse before the teen was cornered by Joseph Rosenbaum, who was reaching for Rittenhouse’s rifle when he fired at Rosenbaum in self-defense.
The man who fired that shot is now facing charges of his own, and Rittenhouse’s attorneys will almost certainly use the case to buttress their self-defense claims. Thirty-five-year-old Joshua Ziminski is facing a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct-use of a dangerous weapon, but Rittenhouse’s attorneys are likely to argue that Ziminski’s shot, fired from behind Rittenhouse, is evidence that Rittenhouse was in legitimate fear for his life when he shot and killed Rosenbaum.
His lawyers say Rittenhouse — who faces homicide charges — acted in self-defense in all three shootings. An 11-minute video his defense produced first highlighted Ziminski’s possible role in the events, but didn’t identify him by that name.
An hourlong analysis of different videos from that evening by Neil Kiernan, a Michigan-based blogger, posted Sept. 26, properly identified Ziminski and breaks down his presence near the gas station where Rittenhouse first fires his AR-15 rifle, killing Rosenbaum.
Ziminski and his wife are seen with Rosenbaum several times, including as they all confront Rittenhouse right before Rosenbaum starts chasing Rittenhouse into the car lot where their encounter turned fatal.
When Kenosha detectives interviewed Ziminski on Oct. 7, he said he had fired a “warning shot” and that gun he used, and is seen holding in various videos from that evening, has since been stolen.
Well, that’s awfully convenient, isn’t it? Unfortunately for Ziminski, despite police not being able to locate the firearm that was in his possession, he’s still caught on multiple videos firing the “warning shot” just before Rittenhouse was cornered by Rosenbaum.
Ziminski faces a maximum possible sentence of 9-months if convicted on his misdemeanor charge, but he could also play a major role in Rittenhouse’s defense. Prosecutors in Kenosha failed to mention Ziminski or the shot that he fired as he was chasing Rittenhouse in their original charging documents, even though video of the incident had already emerged showing Ziminski (unidentified at the time) firing at least one round into the air as he pursued the Illinois teen, who was running away from the mob.
Rittenhouse himself is still in Illinois as his attorneys fight extradition to Wisconsin, with a hearing scheduled for next week in Lake County, Illinois. I’ll confess to being confused by the legal strategy being used by Rittenhouse’s lawyers because, at this point, I’d want to get to a preliminary hearing as quickly as possible. That’s going to be the first real opportunity for the teen’s defense team to argue before a judge that prosecutors haven’t determined that there’s probable cause to bind Rittenhouse over for trial, as well as to offer up their own evidence that their client was acting in self-defense.
It could be that the legal team defending Kyle Rittenhouse is hoping that prosecutors will drop the murder and aggravated assault charges on their own, perhaps after the election is over, but at the moment the Kenosha County D.A.’s office has offered no indication that it’s reconsidering the charges leveled against the teen, and the best chance for an early dismissal of the charges remains with the judge who’ll eventually preside over the preliminary hearing when and if it’s scheduled.