Why Gun Charges Were Bogus in the Rittenhouse Trial
Prosecutors in the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial were thwarted when Judge Bruce Schroeder threw out a misdemeanor charge of possessing a firearm as a minor.
Knowing that the other charges against Rittenhouse were bogus, prosecutors had attempted to ensnare him under a complicated state law that prohibits minors from possessing a “dangerous weapon” unless they fall under an exception such as military service, target practice, or hunting. Among the exceptions is a clause that allows 16- and 17-year olds to carry a gun as long as it is not illegally short-barreled.
The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Rittenhouse was carrying during the protest had a 16” long barrel.
“Nothing about the evidence at trial requires that decision,” argues Wisconsin Law School Professor John P. Gross regarding Judge Schroeder’s decision to dismiss the charge of unlawfully possessing a dangerous weapon as a minor. “That should have been made six months ago” when the defense initially asked for it. “That did hurt the prosecution…It’s the only charge that they were absolutely going to get a conviction.”
As noted by University of Wisconsin-Madison law professor Steven Wright, a jury inclined to compromise could very well have settled on the gun possession charge in order to convict Rittenhouse of something while avoiding the more serious charges leveled against him.
Rittenhouse, 17, shot 3 people in self defense last year during a protest against police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin that erupted after a white police officer shot and wounded a black man named Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse and the three men he shot are white; two of them were killed and one was injured.
Rittenhouse, a lifeguard/volunteer EMT who lived just across state lines in Illinois, attended the Kenosha protest at the behest of locals who had asked him to help protect private property during the event.
The protest soon became violent and a demonstrator named Joseph Rosenbaum (who was actively involved in arson) approached and attacked Rittenhouse (whose friends were armed with fire extinguishers).
After Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum in self defense, Rosenbaum’s cronies surrounded Rittenhouse in an attempt to prevent him from reaching the police for help. Rittenhouse ran roughly two blocks from the scene of the shooting before he was struck in the head with a rock. He continued to flee before tripping and falling to the ground, where he was kicked in the face and then smashed over the head with a skateboard by Anthony Huber.
Huber attempted to disarm Rittenhouse and was shot in the chest during the struggle.
Gaige Grosskreutz, another demonstrator, witnessed the shooting and raised his hands into the air. He was holding a firearm in his right hand. Seeing Grosskreutz’s apparent surrender, Rittenhouse lowered his weapon.
As Grosskreutz later admitted during the trial, he aimed his gun at Rittenhouse just before Rittenhouse responded by shooting him in the arm. Before the trial, Grosskreutz had expressed on social media that his only regret of the night was not attacking Rittenhouse.
Rittenhouse was arrested and charged with counts of intentional, reckless, and attempted homicide and reckless endangerment. After two days of deliberation this week, he was cleared of all charges.