Kyle Rittenhouse: What were the charges in the Kenosha shooting case?

Jurors considered range of charges against teenager who fatally shot two men in protest aftermath

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 19 November 2021 19:41
Prosecutors deliver closing arguments in Rittenhouse trial

A jury has delivered five not guilty verdicts in the double homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two men and injured another in the aftermath of protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year.

Throughout the two-week trial, jurors reviewed more than a dozen pieces of video, including livestreams from that night, an interview Mr Rittenhouse gave moments before he fired his gun, body camera footage, and aerial video from the FBI.

Jurors also heard testimony from police, people who witnessed the shootings, as well as the sole survivor, street medic Gaige Grosskreutz, and Mr Rittenhouse himself.

He faced five felonies, including first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and two counts of recklessly endangering safety in the first degree, following a series of events after police dispersed a group of protesters.

On 19 November a jury found him not guilty on all five counts.

His defence attorneys argued that Mr Rittenhouse was defending himself against a violent mob. Prosecutors contended that Mr Rittenhouse had provoked an already-chaotic scenario and immediately resorted to deadly force. Legal teams presented their closing remarks on 15 November.

Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder also instructed the jury to consider several so-called “lesser-included” charges, in the event they are unable to convict on the initial charges.

First-degree reckless homicide

Mr Rittenhouse was charged with first-degree reckless homicide for killing Joseph Rosenbaum, the first person the defendant killed on 25 August 2020. Mr Rosenbaum, who was unarmed, had chased Mr Rittenhouse near a parking lot, and Mr Rittenhouse fired his AR-15-style rifle four times into him.

The charge of reckless homicide, rather than intentional homicide, alleged that Mr Rittenhouse showed an utter regard for human life by firing at Mr Rosenbaum.

It carried a penalty of up to 60 years in prison, with an additional five years for use of a dangerous weapon.

First-degree reckless endangering safety

The Daily Caller’s Richie McGinniss, who interviewed Mr Rittenhouse moments before the shootings, was trailing Mr Rittenhouse and Mr Rosenbaum, ending up only a few feet away when Mr Rittenhouse fired his gun the first time – close enough that Mr McGinniss said he checked to see whether he had been shot.

Mr McGinniss, who was named as both a witness and a victim in the case, claimed that Mr Rosenbaum had first lunged at Mr Rittenhouse, and seconds later was comforting a dying Mr Roseumbaum.

The charge was punishable up to more than 12 years in prison.

First-degree reckless endangering safety

Video from the night of the shootings shows an unidentified man – referred to as “jumpkick man” during the trial – leaping at Mr Rittenhouse after he fled the scene after shooting Mr Rosenbaum. Prosecutors and witness testimony argued that the crowd believed he was an “active shooter” and chased after him to disarm him. Video shows Mr Rittenhouse firing two rounds at the unidentified man but misses.

The charge was punishable up to more than 12 years in prison.

First-degree intentional homicide

Anthony Huber – who can be seen in video chasing after Mr Rittenhouse behind “jumpkick man” as Mr Rittenhouse falls to the ground – appears to swing his skateboard and attempt to grab Mr Rittenhouse’s rifle before Mr Rittenhouse fires a shot into his chest. Mr Huber was the second man killed that night.

That charge carried a mandatory life sentence, if convicted.

Jurors were also able to consider charges of second-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide in Mr Huber’s killing. Second-degree intentional homicide is punishable by up to 60 years in prison. First-degree reckless homicide – the same charge from Mr Rosenbaum’s death – is punishable by up to 60 years in prison.

Attempted first-degree intentional homicide

Gaige Grosskreutz, a street medic who was armed with a pistol as he followed the crowd, called out to Mr Rittenhouse as he left the scene near Mr Rosenbaum, according to video presented in the trial. “Hey, what are you doing?” Mr Grosskreutz can be heard saying. “You shot somebody? Who’s shot?”

“At that moment, the only thing I was concerned about was finding who had been shot,” he told the trial. “In the moment, I thought the defendant was an active shooter.”

After firing at Mr Huber, Mr Rittenhouse fired a single shot at Mr Grosskreutz, who was approaching Mr Rittenhouse with his arms raised, then lowered them moments before Mr Rittenhouse fired. Mr Grosskreutz told the jury his arm was “vaporised” at that range.

The charge carried a sentence of up to 60 years, with an additional five years for use of a dangerous weapon.

Jurors also considered second-degree attempted intentional homicide and first-degree reckless endangerment charges.

Second-degree intentional homicide carries a penalty of 30 years in prison. Attempted first-degree reckless homicide carries a sentence of more than 12 years.

Charges dropped

On 15 November, Judge Schroeder dismissed a misdemeanour charge for possession of a weapon under age 18. He had previously dismissed another misdemeanor charge for violating curfew.

Judge Schroeder argued that the weapons charge, which is punishable by up to nine months in prison, was drawn from poorly and confusingly written Wisconsin open-carry law.

He believed the jury could only convict if prosecutors showed that the length of the barrel of the rifle used by Mr Rittenhouse fell within the legal dimensions for a short-barrelled rifle – under 16 inches or an overall length of less than 26 inches. The AR-15-style Smith & Wesson M & P 15 rifle used by Mr Rittenhouse is 35 inches long, with a barrel length of 16 inches.

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