Crime

Prosecutors seek to re-arrest Kyle Rittenhouse, saying he violated terms of his release

Kyle Rittenhouse listens to defense attorney John Pierce during an extradition hearing in Lake County court Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, in Waukegan, Illinois. Nam Y. Huh / AP, Pool

Prosecutors on Wednesday sought a new arrest warrant and higher bond for Kyle Rittenhouse, who is charged with fatally shooting two people amid protests in Kenosha, Wis., last summer, alleging that the 18-year-old from Illinois failed to notify authorities of a change in address.

In the three-page motion filed Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors alleged Rittenhouse had “minimal incentive to comply with his bond conditions” because his $2 million bond had been paid by a “dubious Internet fundraising campaign.” Championed by some gun-rights groups and conservatives as a hero who shot in self-defense and wanted to protect the community from rioting, Rittenhouse left custody in the fall with bail raised by a right-wing nonprofit group.

Rittenhouse’s lawyer responded with a motion saying his client went to an “undisclosed Safe House” due to death threats, according to the Associated Press. The attorney, Mark Richards, also said that prosecutors would not agree to keep this new address secret and that Rittenhouse has remained in contact with him, the AP reported. The Post could not immediately obtain a copy of the motion.

Rittenhouse has become a lightning rod in the country’s partisan divides over last year’s racial justice protests and who should bear blame for the deadly violence that sometimes erupted. Some condemned the teenager as a dangerous vigilante; others rallied behind him after he was accused of killing two men and injuring a third during unrest after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man.

Invoking the outside funding that bought Rittenhouse’s release, Kenosha County prosecutors asked a judge to raise Rittenhouse’s bond by $200,000. Rittenhouse and his family did not post money toward his release previously and he already faces life in prison, so he has “no financial stake” in following the rules of his bond, officials argued.

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It is “extremely unusual for a defendant facing a charge of first-degree intentional homicide in Kenosha County to post cash bond and be released from custody pending trial,” prosecutors state in their motion, saying it is crucial that officials be able to monitor Rittenhouse’s whereabouts. “Rarely does our community see accused murderers roaming about freely.”

Prosecutors say Rittenhouse’s bond requires him to alert the court of any address or phone-number change within 48 hours. A recent notice could not be delivered to Rittenhouse at his listed address in Antioch, Ill., they said, and another man told police he had been living there since mid-December.

Richards countered that police told defense attorneys not to give out the address of their client’s safe house, according to the AP. The news organization says Richards’s motion cites emails between another lawyer, Corey Chirafisi, and Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, in which Binger declines to keep the safe house location hidden.

“It is noteworthy that the State has only now decided to file a motion to increase bond in this case, despite having corresponded with Attorney Chirafisi regarding the change in Kyle’s residence over two months ago,” Richards wrote, according to the AP.

A woman who answered the phone Wednesday at Richards’s firm declined to comment, saying only of Rittenhouse, “He’s not missing.” Richards declined to comment when reached Wednesday night.

Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the Aug. 25 shooting, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide, among other offenses. He is accused of killing Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26.

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“If convicted, the defendant will almost certainly serve the remainder of his life in prison,” prosecutors’ motion says.

Speaking publicly to The Washington Post for the first time after his arrest last year, Rittenhouse said he did not regret having a gun the night of the violence. “I feel I had to protect myself,” he said. “I would have died that night if I didn’t.”

The shooting unfolded just before midnight, after protesters converged on Kenosha in outrage over the latest viral-video police shooting of a Black man. Rittenhouse was among those who answered a right-wing armed group’s call for “patriots willing to take up arms and defend [our] City tonight from the evil thugs.”

Rittenhouse quickly became a celebrity of the right, while others held up those shot as anti-racist martyrs. But the true story was complex – a deadly confrontation more accidental than political. Rosenbaum, a homeless man just released from a hospital after a suicide attempt, had never been to a protest. Huber was attending his second, carrying a skateboard and a cellphone to document the night.

Prosecutors have already sought to modify the terms of Rittenhouse’s bond once: On Jan. 13, district attorneys petitioned the judge to prohibit the 18-year-old from consuming alcohol or entering bars as well as from associating with any “violent white power/white supremacist groups” or displaying signs or symbols associated with the white-power movement.

The January motion came after photos and video surveillance footage emerged that prosecutors said showed Rittenhouse at a Mount Pleasant, Wis., bar drinking, flashing white-power hand signs and posing with members of the Proud Boys within hours of his virtual arraignment on Jan. 5. The Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence, have been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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Under Wisconsin law, adults under 21 can drink alcohol in bars if accompanied by a parent. Rittenhouse was allegedly accompanied by his mother.

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