KENOSHA, Wis. (CN) — A Wisconsin judge found there is probable cause that a 17-year-old claiming self-defense in the killing of two protesters committed murder and bound the teenager over for trial Thursday.
Prosecutors say Kyle Rittenhouse crossed state lines from his home in Antioch, Illinois, and shot three people with an AR-15 just before midnight on Aug. 25 during protests that had been raging for two days after a white Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back while responding to a domestic disturbance.
Multiple cars and businesses were set ablaze during the violent unrest in Kenosha in late August. Rittenhouse reportedly joined the fray as a self-styled vigilante to protect life, liberty and private property on the night of the shootings.
Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, were killed in the protests while 26-year-old Gaige Grosskreutz was shot in the right bicep. All three had been protesting Blake’s shooting.
Rittenhouse is charged in Kenosha County Circuit Court with five felonies in connection to the protest shooting, including first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide, as well as a misdemeanor charge for possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor under Wisconsin statutes.
The teen was locked up at the Kenosha County Jail and bail was set at $2 million. His bail was posted on Nov. 20, thanks largely to fundraising efforts of the #FightBack Foundation, a right-leaning defense outfit whose CEO, prominent Atlanta-based defamation attorney L. Lin Wood, had joined Rittenhouse’s defense team. Wood’s foundation has since stepped away from Rittenhouse’s case to focus on unfounded allegations of fraud in the Nov. 3 election.
At the top of Thursday’s hearing, Rittenhouse’s Racine-based attorney Mark Richards argued that a felony count of recklessly endangering safety with a dangerous weapon modifier and the misdemeanor gun possession count should be dismissed.
The felony count stems from allegations made by Richard McGinnis, a journalist present on the night of Aug. 25 that was in the vicinity of the shootings and claims that he feared for his safety when Rittenhouse pointed his gun at him.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, appearing on behalf of the state, read directly from the criminal complaint language that lays out McGinnis’ claims after Richards insisted there was nothing in the complaint that substantiated the felony count, so Kenosha County Court Commissioner Loren Keating denied the motion to dismiss it.
Richards argued that the gun possession charge should be thrown out because the plain language of the relevant Wisconsin law does not apply to Rittenhouse’s circumstances “and additionally what the government is trying to seek is an infringement on my client’s Second Amendment right.”
Binger countered that the court has already rejected these arguments because there is no dispute that Rittenhouse armed himself with an AR-15 on Aug. 25 when he was legally too young to do so.
“We don’t allow teenagers to run around with guns…the statute is clear,” Binger said, adding that “this is exactly why we have this law, because this teenager killed two people and wounded a third.”
Keating ultimately sided with Binger and denied Richards’ motion to drop the gun possession charge.
One witness, Kenosha detective Benjamin Antaramian, was called by the state during Thursday’s hearing. Binger’s questions walked Antaramian through a short version of the events that led to Rittenhouse shooting Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz.
On cross-examination, Richards presented the detective with 12 exhibits in the form of still images of widely circulated video from the night of Aug. 25. Richards claimed the images showed the progression of Rittenhouse running in fear from a crowd of people, falling to the ground, getting attacked by two people, including Huber, and shooting in self-defense before he attempted to give himself up to police on the spot, which all took place in the span of about five minutes.
Binger objected multiple times in the course of cross-examination and argued that Richards was exceeding the scope of the preliminary hearing in order to forward claims he should be saving for trial. Keating mostly concurred with Binger and advised Richards that he did not have the right to testify during the hearing.
Richards responded to Binger and Keating with an aside that “you just don’t want to hear the truth.” The Racine attorney resisted bind-over for his client and emphasized that Rittenhouse had acted in self-defense, opining that “the government can go off on their chaotic quest, but the evidence is clear.”
Keating set Rittenhouse’s arraignment for Jan. 5 after binding him over at the conclusion of the pretrial hearing.
Also mentioned by Richards on Thursday was 35-year-old Joshua Ziminski, a man who allegedly shot his gun in the air just before Rittenhouse began shooting on Aug. 25, which Richards pointed to as support for Rittenhouse acting in self-defense.
Ziminski is charged in Kenosha County with misdemeanor disorderly conduct with a dangerous weapon modifier. Jury selection for his trial is scheduled for Feb. 1.
Dominick Black, a 19-year-old friend of Rittenhouse’s from Racine, has been identified as the one who got Rittenhouse the AR-15 he used to shoot Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz. Black is charged with two felony counts of intent to sell a dangerous weapon to a person under the age of 18 in Kenosha County and is scheduled for arraignment on Jan. 13.
Grosskreutz appeared with international civil rights lawyer Kimberley Motley on Thursday but did not speak during Rittenhouse’s hearing.Follow @@cnsjkelly
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.