KENOSHA, Wis. (CN) — An Illinois teenager charged with shooting three people and killing two at a protest in Wisconsin last August pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder charges during an arraignment hearing in Kenosha.
In a hearing before Kenosha County Court Commissioner Loren Keating, Kyle Rittenhouse’s Racine-based attorney Mark Richards waived his client’s right to hear his charges read and quickly pleaded not guilty on Rittenhouse’s behalf to all the charges against him, which include first-degree murder. The brief five-minute hearing streamed on YouTube was viewed by more than 1,300 people.
The court scheduled a pretrial conference with Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder for March 10 and slated jury selection for March 29.
Prosecutors say Rittenhouse, then 17, crossed state lines from his home in Antioch, Illinois, and shot protesters Gaige Grosskreutz, Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum with an AR-15 just before midnight in Kenosha on Aug. 25. The three victims were engaged in protests that raged for several days after a white Kenosha police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back while responding to a domestic disturbance.
Dozens of 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.
Rosenbaum, 36, and Huber, 26, were killed in the protests while 26-year-old Grosskreutz survived a gunshot wound to his right bicep. Grosskreutz and Huber’s family filed negligence claims against the city of Kenosha, Kenosha County, the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department and others on Monday, seeking a combined $20 million in damages.
Rittenhouse, who turned 18 in jail on Sunday, stands charged in Kenosha County 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.
Rittenhouse’s defense became a cause célèbre for some conservatives, as his team of lawyers and supporters painted the Aug. 25 protest shooting as plain self-defense and his prosecution as a politically motivated leftist hitjob.
The teen was released from the Kenosha County Jail after posting his $2 million bail on Nov. 20, thanks largely to the 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 pro bono. Wood’s foundation eventually stepped away from Rittenhouse’s case to focus on President Donald Trump’s unfounded allegations of fraud in the Nov. 3 election.
Two weeks later, high-profile Los Angeles-based attorney John Pierce also withdrew from Rittenhouse’s criminal case after spending weeks publicly rallying support for the teen’s cause, including with a controversial tweet featuring Rittenhouse speaking from jail in which the lawyer compared the teenager to American revolutionary Paul Revere.
Dominick Black, a 19-year-old friend of Rittenhouse’s from Racine, has been identified as the one who provided Rittenhouse with 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.
Rittenhouse’s defense has pointed to Joshua Ziminski, a 35-year-old man who allegedly shot his pistol in the air just before Rittenhouse began shooting on Aug. 25, to support Rittenhouse’s claim of 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.
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