A court filing by attorneys for a 17-year-old Illinoisan accused of killing two protesters days after Kenosha police shot Jacob Blake presents the most detailed argument yet that Kyle Rittenhouse’s arrival on the streets with a military-style rifle was an act of patriotism and that the shots he fired were all acts of self-defense.
The defense filing, submitted ahead of a Friday hearing in an Illinois court, argues against Rittenhouse’s transfer to Wisconsin to face homicide charges. The filing alleges flaws with the extradition paperwork and alleges that his transfer in the high-profile case would “turn him over to the mob” and violate the teen’s constitutional rights.
Legal experts have voiced doubt that Rittenhouse’s attorneys, Chicago-based Michael Baker and Los Angeles-based John Pierce, will be able to derail the extradition, typically a straightforward process that reserves issues of probable cause and constitutionality to the demanding state’s court.
But the attorneys are using the occasion to detail the teen’s narrative of the incident, which followed two nights of unrest after Blake’s shooting. The filing says “rioters descended on Kenosha” under the cover of protests against the police “and unleashed fury.”
“The nights of August 23 and 24 made clear that the state and local government could not (or would not) contain the insurrection,” the teen’s attorneys wrote.
Rittenhouse, a staunch law-enforcement supporter, went to Kenosha on August 25 and mingled with armed self-appointed militia members. Thursday’s court filing characterizes them as “citizens who responded to their civic duty to help the community.”
The criminal complaint against Rittenhouse, filed by Kenosha County prosecutors after his arrest in north suburban Antioch, Illinois, says it was illegal for the 17-year-old to be carrying a dangerous weapon, identified as an AR-15-style rifle with a 30-round magazine.
But Rittenhouse’s court filing says the teen merely “went out to provide medical attention” and “carried his medical bag to provide first aid and had a rifle to protect himself.”
The defense filing says that, despite countless hours of video circulating online from that night, Rittenhouse is never depicted threatening or antagonizing anyone.
“Shortly before midnight, video depicts Rittenhouse dashing away from a gas station with a fire extinguisher and heading south on Sheridan Road,” the 17-year-old’s attorneys wrote in the filing.
Rittenhouse was headed to where protesters including Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, “appeared to be lighting fires in trash cans,” the filing says.
“For reasons that remain unclear, Rosenbaum began to pursue Rittenhouse upon finding him alone,” the teen’s attorneys wrote. “Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse into a car lot while other rioters flanked them.”
A shot rang out. The defense filing alleges that there was a man with Rosenbaum who fired the shot “into Rittenhouse’s direction.”
“Video captures the events as Rittenhouse turned towards the sound of the gunshot and Rosenbaum lunged for his rifle,” the defense filing adds. “Unable to retreat further and under grave risk of immediate harm, Rittenhouse fired four shots from his rifle at Rosenbaum.”
Rosenbaum collapsed to the ground. An autopsy, described in the criminal complaint, found that he had gunshot wounds to the groin, back, hand, thigh and forehead.
But the Rittenhouse filing does not mention the wounds or a phone call that prosecutors say he made at that moment, admitting, “I just killed somebody.”
The defense filing says “a hostile crowd closed in and forced Rittenhouse to retreat for his safety.”
“He ran towards police whose flashing lights could be seen just blocks away,” the filing says. “The hostile crowd, though, would not allow it. One rioter struck Rittenhouse in the back of the head as he ran. A few steps later, Rittenhouse stumbled and fell to the ground.”
The criminal complaint said that people who were pursuing Rittenhouse were also yelling that he had shot someone.
“Unable to retreat,” the 17-year-old’s attorneys wrote, Rittenhouse turned to face “several attackers charging towards him.”
Rittenhouse fired two shots at “an attacker who kicked him in the head,” his attorneys wrote, but those shots missed.
The defense filing characterizes protester Anthony Huber, 26, as “another attacker” and says he “struck Rittenhouse in the head with a skateboard.”
A statement last month from Huber’s family characterized him as a “hero” who “selflessly tried to disarm” a minor from out of state who was illegally armed with an assault rifle and was “allowed to roam the streets, threatening numerous civilians” and who had already shot and killed someone.
The defense filing says Rittenhouse “managed to shoot” Huber as they “wrestled for control.”
Huber died from that round, which tore through his heart, aorta, pulmonary artery and right lung, the criminal complaint said.
Next, according to the defense filing, “another rioter, Gaige Grosskruetz, advanced on Rittenhouse with his handgun out.”
“Momentarily raising his arms, Grosskruetz then lowered his handgun in Rittenhouse’s direction,” the teen’s attorneys wrote. “Rittenhouse fired a single shot, wounding Grosskruetz in the same arm that pointed the handgun.”
Grosskreutz, who survived the wound, was volunteering as a medic when he was shot, according to Bethany Crevensten, who was among protesters near the shootings.
“He was a hero and he is a hero,” she told the Associated Press.
Rittenhouse is being held without bail in Lake County’s juvenile detention facility.
Kenosha County prosecutors charged him with first-degree intentional homicide — Wisconsin’s equivalent of first-degree murder — in connection with Huber’s death. They also charged him with first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18, and two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment. All but the gun charge are felonies.
If convicted of the murder count, he would face a mandatory life sentence.
At Friday’s court hearing, a brief online proceeding in which Rittenhouse appeared with a blue face mask, Lake County Judge Paul Novak scheduled Oct. 30 oral arguments over extradition.
The filing by Rittenhouse’s attorneys argues that the extradition would violate his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure because video evidence shows “without the shadow of a doubt” that he acted in self-defense.
“The case is unique because the evidence is so public that the court need not delve into another state’s case file,” the teen’s attorneys wrote.
The defense filing also argues that the charges are politically motivated and that sending Rittenhouse to adult jail in Wisconsin would endanger him.
Blake, who is Black, was shot seven times in the back by white officer Rusten Sheskey, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down and sparking outrage after video of the shooting was posted online.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating that shooting. The three responding officers are on administrative leave.