Judge Bars Prosecution from Presenting Evidence of Proud Boys Links in Rittenhouse Trial

The judge in the Kyle Rittenhouse case on Friday denied prosecutors’ requests to use so-called “other acts” evidence they argue shows the teen’s inclination to act like a vigilante, and would reveal his state of mind to jurors. (Wisconsin does not legally allow the use of deadly force to defend third party property.)

At a hearing, which ran more than two hours, Schroeder said he would hold a separate pre-trial hearing next month about whether he’ll allow testimony from use-of-force experts that both sides have indicated they want to call.

The trial itself remains set for Nov. 1.

Footage of the street from the direction Rittenhouse and Rosenbaum come running in from (runners are potentially seen on the left side of the screen)

Rittenhouse, now 18, is charged with fatally shooting two people and wounding a third — along with other lesser offenses — during unruly protests in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020 after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. His lawyer says he acted in self-defense.

Footage begins after streamer Reggie Inkagnedo walks across the street after vandals begin attacking empty cars on the sales lot (smashing glass can be heard)

The prosecution did reveal Friday that it has infrared video from an FBI airplane that they say shows Rittenhouse was chasing his first victim, Joseph Rosenbaum, and said something to him before Rosenbaum then chased him, leading to the fatal encounter seconds later. The defense said it is obtaining the same video soon.

Also left undecided Friday was whether the estimated 150 or so people who will be summoned as possible jurors will be asked to fill out extensive questionnaires before the selection process begins.

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Schroeder, Wisconsin’s longest serving sitting judge, said he disfavors questionnaires, and expressed concern it would tip recipients off that they could serve in the high-profile Rittenhouse trial — and might prompt even more talk about the case than has already been occurring in town.

Schroeder said he’s concerned about some of the questions lawyers have proposed concerning issues like support for certain political movements, guns, or memberships.

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“This is not and won’t be a political trial,” he said. That’s why it is important to limit the prosecutions use of evidence that would be accepted as evidence in literally any other trial.

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But both sides urged him to use a questionnaire, to speed jury selection and help screen out people with the most strongly held views before they “contaminate” other potential jurors during traditional voir dire, where people in a group answer questions from lawyers in person.

Schroeder seemed confident a jury could be selected in one day, without a questionnaire ahead of time, but said he’d revisit the matter and decide next week whether one — with limited queries — could be sent out.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger argued repeatedly that three incidents involving Rittenhouse go “to what I posit strong theory of case — that he’s essentially a teen vigilante involving himself in things that don’t concern him.”

Rittenhouse can be heard expressing a desire to gun down looters days before the shooting
Rittenhouse interviews with Richie McGinnis hours before the shooting

One video shows Rittenhouse striking a girl who was fighting with his sister in June 2020. One from Aug. 15, 2020 shows him and a friend watching from inside a car as people — whom Rittenhouse believes are looters — leave a CVS store across the street, while Rittenhouse says he wished he had his rifle so he could shoot at them. The still photos are of Rittenhouse posing with members of the Proud Boys at a Racine County tavern after a hearing in his case in January.

Binger said he expects the defense to portray Rittenhouse as a community-minded altruist, so jurors need to hear about his other state of mind. “It helps illuminate the truth for the jury,” he said.

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But Schroeder agreed with the defense that all three incidents were likely too dissimilar from the shootings and would improperly suggest that because Rittenhouse did or said something else distasteful, he had the propensity to kill people. He withheld a final ruling on the CVS incident, pending what other evidence comes in at trial, but said he’s leaning against allowing it.

Likewise, Schroeder rejected a defense argument to introduce evidence of Rosenbaum’s criminal background to buttress an argument that he was trying to rob Rittenhouse of his gun because Rosenbaum, as a felon, couldn’t get one legally.

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Schroeder declined to order the defense to turn over lists of donors to Rittenhouse’s various defense funds, or customers who bought Free Kyle merchandise. Defense attorney Mark Richards said he does not have access to such information. Schroeder suggested prosecutors could try to subpoena the actual holders of the information.

Lastly, Schroeder postponed ruling on Richards’ motion to dismiss a misdemeanor charge that Rittenhouse illegally possessed a firearm as a minor (he was 17 at the time of the shootings). Binger said he thinks the statute clearly prohibits minors from “going armed,” except for certain hunting situations.

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Richard argues that the oddly-worded law carves another exception for 16 and 17-year-olds to legally carry shotguns and rifles in public.

A lawyer for Rittenhouse’s year-older friend, who faces charges for getting him the rifle when Rittenhouse was too young to buy it, has raised the same argument in trying to get those charges dismissed.

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