Attorney for Kyle Rittenhouse points to heated political environment, says teen faces ‘political prosecution’
Rittenhouse is charged with killing two protesters days after Jacob Blake was shot by police in Kenosha. In court records, Rittenhouse’s attorneys argued he acted in self-defense and extraditing him to Wisconsin would violate his constitutional rights.
An attorney representing Kyle Rittenhouse pointed to a heated presidential election and argued in an extradition hearing Friday that the teen shouldn’t be sent back to Wisconsin to face homicide charges because “this is not a legitimate criminal prosecution, it is a political prosecution.”
“It’s no secret that this is a very unique extraordinary situation. There is a massive amount of video evidence that shows that beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is not a legitimate criminal prosecution, it is a political prosecution,” attorney John Pierce said during the hearing.
“There are serious issues with the extradition paperwork that in fact bolster the suggestion that this is a political prosecution. These papers were sent directly to the governor without us even getting a chance to look at them in the first instance without any notice,” Pierce said of extradition paperwork that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed off on.
Rittenhouse is charged with killing two protesters days after Jacob Blake was shot by police in Kenosha.
Lake County Judge Paul Novak presided from the Waukegan courthouse. Rittenhouse appeared on video from the county’s juvenile detention center.
“There’s no reason to rush,” Pierce said of the proceedings. “There is danger to this detainee. There is a presidential candidate in the heat of arguably the most heated election perhaps ever, certainly since 1860, that has inflamed the situation. And we simply ask that this detainee’s due process rights be observed so we can challenge this in a proper way and ensure that this is a legitimate criminal prosecution and not something else.”
Novak scheduled another hearing for Oct. 30.
In court records filed late Thursday, Rittenhouse’s attorneys argued he acted in self-defense and extraditing him to Wisconsin would violate his constitutional rights.
They also argue Wisconsin prosecutors and Illinois authorities didn’t follow legal technicalities required for extradition.
Extradition is typically a straightforward process, and legal experts have expressed doubt that Rittenhouse’s attorneys could successfully prevent a court from sending him to Wisconsin to face charges there.
His arrest has become a rallying point for some on the right; a legal defense fund has attracted millions in donations. Others see Rittenhouse as a domestic terrorist whose presence with a rifle incited the protesters.
The document echoes attorneys’ previous portrayal of Rittenhouse as a courageous patriot exercising his right to bear arms during unrest over the shooting of Blake, who is Black.
Extraditing Rittenhouse would “turn him over to the mob,” they claim.
“The premature and unsupported charges are contributing to unwarranted public condemnation,” attorneys wrote. “Rittenhouse has been publicly branded a ‘mass murderer,’ a ‘terrorist,’ a ‘racist,’ and more.”
Rittenhouse was arrested at his Antioch home a day after prosecutors say he shot and killed two protesters and injured a third in Kenosha on Aug. 25 during protests over Blake’s shooting.
Rittenhouse is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the killing of two protesters and attempted intentional homicide in the wounding of a third. He also faces a misdemeanor charge of underage firearm possession for wielding a semi-automatic rifle.
Like Rittenhouse, the men he is accused of shooting are white. If convicted of first-degree homicide, Rittenhouse would be sentenced to life in prison.
Mike Nerheim, the Lake County state’s attorney, has said Pritzker signed a warrant to return Rittenhouse to Wisconsin after a request from Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a fellow Democrat.
The killings happened amid protests two days after a white police officer shot Blake seven times in the back, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down and sparking outrage after video of the shooting was posted online. A Wisconsin Department of Justice investigation into that shooting is ongoing. The three responding officers are on administrative leave.
According to prosecutors and court documents, Rittenhouse shot and killed 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, of Kenosha, after Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag at Rittenhouse, missing him, and tried to wrestle his rifle away.
While trying to get away in the immediate aftermath, Rittenhouse was captured on cellphone video saying “I just killed somebody.” According to the complaint filed by prosecutors, someone in the crowd said, “Beat him up!” and another yelled, “Get him! Get that dude!”
Video shows Rittenhouse tripped. As he was on the ground, 26-year-old Anthony Huber, of Silver Lake, hit him with a skateboard and tried to take his rifle. Rittenhouse fired, killing Huber and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, of West Allis, who was holding a handgun.
Rittenhouse’s extradition would not be an issue had he been arrested in Kenosha that night. Cellphone video shows that right after the shootings, Rittenhouse walked slowly toward a police vehicle, hands up, only to be waved through by officers.
He returned to his Illinois home and turned himself in soon after. Police later blamed chaotic conditions for Rittenhouse not being arrested at the scene.