The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict is probably the least surprising verdict in years. Judge Bruce Schroeder was probably the most biased judge ever in a high-profile trial, and everything was prepped for Rittenhouse to be acquitted. Anyone with half a brain knows that if Rittenhouse had been black, he never would have survived the night, never mind be acquitted in a public trial. It’s the reason that we need a Black Lives Matter movement to begin with.
Just to review: Kyle Rittenhouse is the little 17-year old punk and wannabe police officer whose mother chose to drive him from his home in Antioch, IL to Kenosha WI (about a 33 minute, 21 mile drive) so that he could pretend to be a law enforcement officer. Kenosha was, on August 25, 2020, in the midst of several days of protests related to the shooting of Jacob Blake, where police officers shot Blake in the back several times, leaving him paralzed from the waist down.
Rittenhouse pretended to be an EMT and pretended to protect a car dealership (where the cars had already been moved off the lot; to be fair, the dealership had suffered damage the two previous nights). The following sequence followed:
- Rittenhouse then had a confrontation with 36 year old activist Joseph Rosenbaum at 11:48 p.m. (Why is a 17 year old kid still on the streets from 10 minutes to midnight?) Rosenbaum was unarmed but may have been trying to take Rittenhouse’s gun. Rittenhouse shot him four times and killed him. (Richie McGinniss, a reporter for right wing Daily Caller, apparently tried to administer first aid.)
- After fleeing the scene, several protestors ran after Rittenhouse for a few blocks, identifying him as the man who had just shot someone. At some point Rittenhouse tripped and fell down. Anthony Huber, a 26 year old skateboarder who was also at the protests, then tried to take Rittenhouse’s gun and was shot while Rittenhouse was sitting on the street.
- Finally, Gaige Grosskreutz, a 27 year old trained paramedic who actually was trying to provide assistance in Kenosha was also shot (but not killed) by Rittenhouse when he also tried to take the kid’s gun.
In order for Rittenhouse to get off, the jury had to find that all three shootings were justified by the doctrine of self-defense, as applied in Wisconsin.
So, let’s first acknowledge that none of the victims was perfect. Rosenbaum, in particular, seems to have been kind of a little prick; Huber has had “mental health challenges” in his life; and Grosskreutz initially “forgot” to tell the police that he had been armed that night.
Of course, if being an asshole were justification to shoot someone, we’d have to shoot about 1/3rd of the population of the United States.
All three of the people who were shot by Rittenhouse were apparently trying to disarm him, so it’s not that there isn’t some legal basis for the verdict. But as various commentators have noted, you shouldn’t be able to claim self-defense in a situation where you yourself provoked the danger.
Rittenhouse — although police had been warned that there was an “active shooter” in the streets — was not arrested, and turned himself in the next day in Illinois.
The kid was released from detention on November 20, after his attorneys posted $2 million bail. He got the money for the bail from right-wing websites that had raised the funds for him. Later, security footage from a Wisconsin bar showed Rittenhouse drinking beers in a bar, wearing a shirt that said “Free as Fuck,” and posing for pictures alongside five men flashing an “OK” sign. Later, a mailed notice about a scheduled court appearance was returned as undeliverable when Rittenhouse had changed his address without notifying the court. Judge Schroeder denied the prosecutors’ request for an increase in Rittenhouse’ bond, stating that people out on bail “often fail to update their address without being arrested.”
The defense put all three victims (but especially Rosenbaum) on trial. The judge confirmed his biases when he refused to let the prosecutors call the three men who were shot “victims” but allowed the defense to call them “rioters” and “looters” and “arsonists,” even though the victims were not on trial.
And so here we are. Rittenhouse acquitted. Of course, it’s not necessarily the end of litigation for him. First of all — since he crossed state lines to accomplish his shooting spree — there is a small chance that he could face federal charges, if the justice department is willing to indict him. Don’t hold your breath on that.
Much more likely is that he will be embroiled in civil suits brought by the families of the three victims, just like O.J. Simpson was sued civilly after his acquittal. The police department in Kenosha will also be sued and maybe others with responsibility for keeping the peace. It’s very unlikely that Rittenhouse will ever be a police officer, which was apparently one of his career ambitions. In any case, he’s not out of the woods yet legally, but he has obviously survived the most dangerous legal proceeding that he had to survive. Stay tuned.