Kyle Rittenhouse trial: Witness tells court prosecutors pressured him to change his police statement

Defence witness Nathan DeBruin is a freelance photographer who was covering the racial justice protests where Rittenhouse shot three men in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Megan Sheets
Thursday 11 November 2021 17:35
Drone video shows Kyle Rittenhouse's first shooting
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A defence witness at the Kyle Rittenhouse trial accused prosecutors of pressuring him to change his police statement.

Nathan DeBruin is a freelance photographer who was covering the racial justice protests where Mr Rittenhouse shot three men, two fatally, on 25 August 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

During his testimony for the defence on Tuesday, Mr DeBruin described a pretrial meeting with prosecutors where he said he was urged to add a detail to his police statement about the shootings.

Mr DeBruin said prosecutor Thomas Binger showed him a photo of Joshua Ziminski – who is facing his own charges for alleged crimes on the same night as the Rittenhouse shootings – and asked him to identify the man.

When Mr DeBruin said he didn’t recognise the man, he said Mr Binger told him the name and then asked if he wanted to add that identification into his statement.

“Mr Binger pulled out a cell phone … and asked me if I knew who a gentleman was in that photo. I said I did not,” Mr DeBruin told the court under questioning from defence attorney Mark Richards.

“He said: ‘This is Joshua Ziminski.’ Mr Binger also has a case with him [Mr Ziminski], and I am subpoenaed in that case also and he said that’s who that is.

“He put the phone down and picked it back up and said: “Who is this?’ I confusedly said ‘Joshua Ziminski’, and he said: ‘Would you like to add that to your statement?’

“I just said I didn’t want to change my statement.”

Mr DeBruin said the conversation made him so uncomfortable that he ended the meeting and then hired his own lawyer. The prosecution ultimately decided not to call Mr DeBruin as a witness for its case.

On cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney James Kraus sought to refute Mr DeBruin’s characterisation of the exchange. He implied that Mr Binger was asking if Mr DeBruin wanted to add anything to his statement in a more general sense, without a corrupt motive.

“We never asked you to change anything about Kyle Rittenhouse?” Mr Kraus asked.

“Not specifically no,” Mr DeBruin replied.

Mr Kraus followed up: “So what do you mean by we asked you to change it?”

“I am assuming there wasn’t details, but I’m assuming either add Kyle’s name because I was also shown a video off a cellphone by Mr. Binger, I don’t know what that video or whose video that was but it was a video of the shooting and that’s when I was asked if I wanted to add anything else to that statement and I said no,” Mr Bruin said.

“You didn’t take that to mean is there anything else we should cover or that we should know?” Mr Kraus asked.

Mr DeBruin replied: “No. He didn’t say retype it, but he said did I want to add anything to that. How I interpret that is that is pretty much altering my statement and I felt uneasy with that.”

Mr Kraus pressed the witness by noting that he added details to his statement during his court testimony, to which he replied: “That was because I recall in videos of certain things happening.

“The day I gave my statement when I walked into that police station, there wasn’t even a glass door on that building.”

The bulk of Mr DeBruin’s testimony under questioning from the defence revolved around his recollection of Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man Mr Rittenhouse shot.

He brought with him photos he had taken of Mr Rosenbaum before the shootings, which showed him swinging a metal chain, pushing a burning dumpster and knocking over a portable toilet.

Mr DeBruin said he heard Mr Rosenbaum say: “[F**k] the police over and over again. I’m not afraid to go back to jail. Shoot me N-word. Shoot me N-word.”

He also described seeing Anthony Huber, the second person Mr Rittenhouse shot and killed, strike the defendant with a skateboard and Gaige Grosskreutz, the third victim, point a gun at Mr Rittenhouse before he was wounded.

Follow The Independent’s live coverage of the trial here.

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