A 17-year-old accused of killing two protesters days after Jacob Blake was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, faces a hearing Friday on whether he should be sent to Wisconsin to stand trial on homicide charges that could put him in prison for life.
Kyle Rittenhouse was arrested at his home in Antioch, Illinois, a day after prosecutors say he shot and killed two protesters and injured a third on the streets of Kenosha on Aug. 25. His attorneys have said Rittenhouse acted in self-defense and have portrayed him as a courageous patriot who was exercising his right to bear arms during unrest over the shooting of Blake, who is Black.
Rittenhouse, who is white, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the killing of two white 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.
If convicted of first-degree homicide, Rittenhouse would be sentenced to life in prison.
A judge in Lake County, Illinois, was expected to rule Friday on whether to send Rittenhouse to Kenosha to face the charges.
Rittenhouse appears to have few options to fight the extradition.
His lawyers could argue that he’s mentally unfit and isn’t cooperating with them, which could delay the process, said David Erickson, a former Illinois judge and prosecutor who isn’t connected to the case.
“A prosecutor has to show that a crime was committed in the state of Wisconsin and, more likely than not, this is the guy,” he said.
Cheryl T. Bormann, a Chicago-area defense lawyer who’s also not involved in the case, said fighting extradition is a “losing proposition” and that Rittenhouse’s guilt or innocence has no role in whether Illinois will honor Wisconsin’s request.
“The only real defense to extradition would be that Kyle Rittenhouse is not Kyle Rittenhouse. In other words, his lawyer would have to show that they got the wrong guy,” Bormann said.
To some, Rittenhouse is a domestic terrorist whose very presence with a rifle incited the protesters in Kenosha. To others — who have become frustrated with demonstrations and unrest across the country — he’s seen as a hero who took up arms to protect businesses, including some that were damaged during unrest the previous two nights.
Prosecutors say Rittenhouse shot and killed Rosenbaum after Rosenbaum threw something at Rittenhouse.
While running 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!”
According to prosecutors and cellphone footage from that night, as Rittenhouse was jogging down a street with protesters in tow, a man struck him, and he fell to the ground before another protester kicked him. Back on his feet and a bit farther down the street, Huber struck him with a skateboard and Rittenhouse opened fire, killing Huber and wounding Grosskreutz, who was holding a handgun.
The killings happened two days after a white Kenosha 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.
Rittenhouse’s legal team includes Los Angeles-based John Pierce and Lin Wood, a defamation lawyer who represented falsely accused security guard Richard Jewell in the 1996 Olympic Park bombing case in Atlanta and is a lawyer for Sean Hannity, the Fox News host with close ties to President Donald Trump.
Pierce has described Rittenhouse not as a vigilante, but as a model citizen who was cleaning graffiti from a vandalized high school before he received word from a business owner seeking help to protect what was left of his property after rioters burned two of his other buildings.
Pierce and Wood did not respond to messages ahead of Friday’s hearing.
Huber’s partner and others filed a federal lawsuit against Facebook this week, saying it refused to remove a militia group’s call to arms to protect businesses in Kenosha before the Rittenhouse shootings. The lawsuit, which also names Rittenhouse as a defendant, said he may not have traveled the roughly 15 miles (24 kilometers) from his home to Kenosha had it not been for that Facebook post, though the company said it had evidence to suggest that he followed the militia group’s page or was invited to the event posting.