On August 25, 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse shot three people on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Joseph Rosenbaum is definitely dead. Anthony Huber is definitely dead. Gaige Grosskreutz is still recovering from a severe wound.
But none of these people are victims. At least, none of them can be called “victims” according to the judge for Rittenhouse’s upcoming trial.
As ABC News reported on Tuesday, Judge Bruce Schroeder made it clear that there were very distinct ground rules when the white 18-year-old goes on trial for crossing state lines, marching through the streets with a loaded weapon, and shooting three victims. And one of those rules is that Rittenhouse gets handled with kid gloves while his victims get slandered.
“The word ‘victim’ is a loaded, loaded word,” said Schroeder. “‘Alleged victim’ is a cousin to it.”
The prosecution can’t use the word victim, even with “alleged” tacked onto the front. But what words are then defense allowed to use when describing the three men that Rittenhouse left bleeding on the street when he strolled past police and drove back to his home in another state?
According to Judge Schroeder, they can be called “looters.” Also “rioters” and “arsonists.” Even though none of the three victims of Rittenhouse’s shooting spree have been charged with any crime.
It isn’t clear why Schroeder suddenly decided that the word “victim” was too inflammatory to describe two men who had been literally gunned down in the street. What is clear is that nothing has been standard about the trial from the beginning.
When Rittenhouse moved out of the home where he was supposed to stay while on parole awaiting trial back in February, prosecutors approached Judge Schroeder with a request for an arrest warrant and an order to raise Rittenhouse’s bail. Schroeder denied both requests, saying that “Most people out on bond, we don’t know where they are.” That decision was one of several that led to protests calling for Schroeder to step down from the case. He didn’t.
At Tuesday’s hearing, in addition to ruling out the word “victim” and telling the defense that he “wasn’t going to stop them” when it came to describing those shot by Rittenhouse as looters, rioters, or arsonists in closing arguments, Schroeder also informed the defense that they would be allowed to bring in “use-of-force expert” John Black to testify that Rittenhouse had acted in self-defense. Black has already publicly stated that he believes Rittenhouse’s actions were “reasonably necessary.” None of that is, apparently, “loaded.”
Unlike Rittenhouse’s gun. Which very much was.
Assistant district attorney Thomas Binger was clearly frustrated by the rulings at Tuesday’s hearing. “The terms that I’m identifying here such as ‘rioter,’ ‘looter,’ and ‘arsonist’ are as loaded, if not more loaded, than the term ‘victim.’” But Schroeder was unmoved.
In addition to allowing the defense to paint Rittenhouse’s victims as anything but victoms, and giving the defense their “expert,” Schroeder also ruled that the defense can show a video in which police officers are heard telling armed militia members they appreciate their presence. In the video, the police toss Rittenhouse a bottle of water.
Instead of blocking the video, Schroeder seemed to argue that the police sanctioning Rittenhouse’s presence helped justify his actions.
“If the jury is being told, if the defendant is walking down the sidewalk and doing what he claims he was hired to do and police say, ‘Good thing you’re here,’ is that something influencing the defendant and emboldening him in his behavior? That would be an argument for relevance.”
Earlier this week, Rittenhouse’s attorneys moved to have weapons charges dismissed because Rittenhouse was legally of age to hunt. Even Schroeder seems to have dismissed that idea.
On August 25, 2020, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse climbed into his car and drove from his home in Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin. He carried with him an AR-15 rifle which the then under-age Rittenhouse had obtained illegally.
This was just two days after the shooting of Black man Jacob Blake by Kenosha police. Blake was unarmed when a white Kenosha police officer shot him seven times, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
Rittenhouse, who is white, said he had come to “patrol” the streets as part of a militia group calling itself “the Kenosha guard.” That group had been formed a few weeks earlier under claims that they were “protecting” businesses from Black Lives Matter protesters who marched in Kenosha following the police murder of George Floyd.
Strolling down the street with his rifle slung over his arm, Rittenhouse confronted protesters who tried to pull the gun away. Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum, ran a short distance and fell, then shot Huber, and finally shot Grosskreutz through the arm.
On the night of the murders, Rittenhouse walked past officers, gun still in hand. Rather than stop him, the police proceeded toward the protesters.
Following the shooting, Tucker Carlson championed Rittenhouse.
As for Jacob Blake, Kenosha County prosecutors announced in January that officers involved in Blake’s shooting would not be charged. However, Blake, who now uses a wheelchair as a result of his injuries, was sent to jail for two years for “prior charges of disorderly conflict.”
Rittenhouse’s trial is expected to begin on Nov. 1.