The preliminary hearing for 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse took place virtually in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Thursday and ended with the county’s court commissioner upholding all of the charges against the teenager, though Rittenhouse’s attorney had argued that his client shot three people in self-defense rather than in act of malice. Mark Richards, the attorney representing Rittenhouse during the preliminary hearing, also sought to have charges of illegal possession of a firearm dropped, but the court agreed with prosecutors who argued that state law prohibits those under the age of 18 from possessing a rifle, except while hunting.
At the preliminary hearing — held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the prosecution presented brief testimony from Kenosha Police Detective Ben Antaramian about Rittenhouse’s actions on Aug. 25 when he is alleged to have shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha, and Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake, and shot and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, of West Allis.
Antaramian testified that Rittenhouse is seen on video shooting the three men.In his cross examination, Richards used photographs taken from videos showing the moments before and during the shootings, attempting to show that Rittenhouse shot the men in self defense. He characterized Rosenbaum as a criminal.The detective testified that Rosenbaum was chasing Rittenhouse before he was shot and that after that shooting Rittenhouse was running away and fell to the ground, shooting Huber after Huber hit him with a skateboard. Another man, who was seen on video trying to kick Rittenhouse, was never identified, Antaramian testified.
I find it incredibly frustrating that even the witnesses for the prosecution don’t dispute that Rittenhouse wasn’t the initial aggressor, and was in fact fleeing from a mob led by Joseph Rosenbaum when he was cornered by the man with a lengthy criminal history who had just been released from a psychiatric facility earlier that day.
Rather than acknowledge that Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense because he was in fear for his life, prosecutor Thomas Binger argued that the teen’s defense team can try to advance their self-defense claims at trial, and the court commissioner agreed.
I’m of the belief that Rittenhouse’s prosecution is largely political in nature, so I’m not surprised that the court found that there was probable cause to bind the 17-year old over for trial on charges including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, reckless endangerment, and possessing a dangerous weapon as a minor. To my admittedly un-lawyered mind, the possession charge is the easiest for prosecutors to prove, but even if Rittenhouse wasn’t legally allowed to possess the rifle on the night he went to downtown Kenosha in an attempt to protect businesses and offer his first-aid experience as a medic, that doesn’t negate his right to self-defense once he was attacked.
So far we’ve heard no talk of a plea deal from either prosecutors or Rittenhouse’s defense team, but I would be shocked if the District Attorney’s office didn’t offer some type of deal before a trial takes place; a manslaughter plea in exchange for the dropping of murder charges, for instance. Whether or not that would be acceptable to the teen or his defense team remains an open question as well, as attorneys Lin Wood and John Pierce have repeatedly declared that the teenager did nothing wrong and have vowed to fight the charges fully.
As of a couple of weeks ago, however, Pierce had not yet applied to represent Rittenhouse in court, though he remains a part of the defense team. Pierce isn’t admitted to the Wisconsin bar, so in order to take part in defense hearings he must get permission from the court in a process called pro hac vice, but the Kenosha News reported on November 18th that Pierce had yet to file a pro hac vice application with the State Bar of Wisconsin, though the attorney told the paper that an application would be filed “shortly.”
Wood, meanwhile, has been far more visible of late trying to convince Republicans not to vote in the Georgia runoff elections for the two U.S. Senate seats that will determine who controls that chamber come January, and also wasn’t involved in today’s preliminary hearing.
Kyle Rittenhouse’s next court date is scheduled for January 5th, when his official arraignment will take place. No trial date has been scheduled yet, and it could easily be late spring or the summer of 2021 before Rittenhouse gets his day in court and the opportunity to testify in his own defense.