Judge dismisses weapons charge in Kyle Rittenhouse trial before closing arguments

A Wisconsin prosecutor on Monday called Kyle Rittenhouse a gunman with no “honor” or “legal authority” to kill two men during protests last year in Kenosha.

In closing arguments to jurors, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger challenged Rittenhouse’s claim of self-defense when he gunned down Anthony Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, on Aug. 25 last year.

“So consider, for example, whether or not it’s heroic or honorable to provoke and shoot unarmed people,” the prosecutor said.

“They enjoy the thrill of going around and telling people what to do, without the courage or the honor to back it up and without the legal authority to do so.” 

Rittenhouse is accused of intentional homicide in the slaying of  Huber and reckless homicide in the death of Rosenbaum.

Binger played video that appeared to show Rittenhouse putting down a fire extinguisher and raising his AR-15-style weapon.

The prosecutor then recreated that scene for jurors, putting down a water bottle, in place of the fire extinguisher, and then raised the actual weapon in court.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger holds Kyle Rittenhouse’s gun as he gives the state’s closing argument in Kenosha County Courthouse in Wisconsin on Nov. 15, 2021. Sean Krajacic / Pool via Reuters

“That is what provokes this entire incident,” Binger said. “When the defendant provokes the incident, he loses the right to self-defense. You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create.”

Both Huber and Rosenbaum were unarmed when they were killed, prompting Binger to liken the threat the victims posed to Rittenhouse to combatants in a barroom brawl.

“You don’t bring a gun to a fistfight,” he said. “What the defendant wants you to believe is that, because he’s the one who brought the gun, he gets to kill.”

The prosecution relied heavily on video of the mayhem that night in Kenosha and even pictures of the aftermath.

When Binger displayed an autopsy photograph of Rosenbaum’s bloodied body on a gurney, and then another image of his mangled hand, some jurors appeared to avert their eyes from courtroom TV monitors.

Moments before closing arguments began, Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed one count of illegal possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.

The misdemeanor, punishable by up to nine months in jail, was considered one of the stronger counts against Rittenhouse. No one disputes he was 17 last year when he walked the streets of Kenosha armed with an AR-15-style weapon.

But the judge cited an exception within the law, dealing with age of the defendant, length of the barrel and hunting, for dismissing that count.

“The reason observers correctly believed the misdemeanor gun charge was a slam dunk is because it’s not disputed that Kyle Rittenhouse was under 17, and that he possessed a gun,” NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos said.

“But the criminal statute itself is more complicated than that. For this statute to apply, the defendant had to also violate a hunting regulation that only applied to people under 16. The defense discovered what was essentially an error in the legislation, that Kyle Rittenhouse cannot violate a law that only applies to someone under 16.”

Rittenhouse, now 18, still faces five other charges stemming from the fatal shootings.

In addition to the homicide counts, Rittenhouse has also been charged with attempted intentional homicide in the shooting of Gaige Grosskreutz, a paramedic from suburban Milwaukee who was volunteering his service at the protest.

The victims and Rittenhouse were in the streets of Kenosha as social justice demonstrations erupted following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

Huber and Rosenbaum were not armed when Rittenhouse shot them, but Grosskreutz, 27, came toward the suspect with a pistol in hand when the teen from Antitoch, Illinois, opened fire.

Prosecutors said Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, had no legal right to have an AR-15-style weapon and wasn’t justified in the shootings.

The defense, meanwhile, has been arguing that Rittenhouse was defending himself on a chaotic, violent night.

In a highly unusual move, Rittenhouse took the witness stand in his own defense and insisted he reasonably feared for his life each time he pulled the trigger.

He described Rosenbaum as “the person who attacked me first and threatened to kill me twice.”

The defendant said Huber attacked him with a skateboard and was trying to pull his weapon away from him.

“He brung that gun for protection … if he didn’t have that gun, my son would’ve been dead,” the defendant’s mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, told “NBC Nightly News” over the weekend.

The Rittenhouse trial has drawn national attention. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has put 500 National Guard troops on standby in case local law enforcement need help with crowd control after a verdict.

He asked visitors to stay away from Kenosha.

“I urge folks who are otherwise not from the area to please respect the community by reconsidering any plans to travel there,” Evers said in a statement.

“The Kenosha community has been strong, resilient, and has come together through incredibly difficult times these past two years, and that healing is still ongoing.”

This is a developing story. Please refresh here for updates.

source: nbcnews.com