Kyle Rittenhouse’s attorneys are fighting his return to Wisconsin to face a murder charge and other counts alleging he killed two men and wounded a third during protests in Kenosha last month.
Defendants frequently waive their right to challenge extradition, but a lawyer for the 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, told Lake County Judge Paul Novak during a brief online hearing Friday morning that he plans to contest the process.
Attorney John M. Pierce did not detail the legal arguments he plans to make but said the case would involve “issues of some complexity, frankly, that have not arisen in the country for some time.”
Rittenhouse appeared by video, wearing a dark shirt and sitting against a white brick wall wearing a face mask. He said nothing beyond greeting the judge.
Lawyers who have handled extradition cases said Rittenhouse could face an uphill climb. While it’s unclear what issues Pierce might raise, extradition proceedings typically do not involve a defense against the charges and instead focus on specific questions about the validity of the legal paperwork and whether the person jailed is actually the person charged with the crime, attorneys said.
On the question of identity, numerous video clips show Rittenhouse at the scene and Pierce has acknowledged in a written statement that his client shot the people but argued he fired in self-defense. Chicago attorney Stephen Komie, who has handled numerous extradition matters, said that because the identity question appears to have been resolved, he expects Rittenhouse to be extradited.
Elgin attorney Brian Mirandola, a former Kane County assistant state’s attorney, said defendants rarely beat extradition because the hurdles prosecutors have to clear are low.
“It’s a very small bar to get over, and 99.9% of the time (defendants) are going to lose.”
The judge set the next hearing for Oct. 9.
Rittenhouse has been held without bail in Lake County’s juvenile detention facility since his arrest a month ago. Kenosha County prosecutors have charged him with shooting three men with an AR-15-style rifle Aug. 25 during violent protests over white police Officer Rusten Sheskey’s shooting of 29-year-old Black man Jacob Blake a couple of days earlier.
Videos show that Rittenhouse — an ardent supporter of police who participated in groups for aspiring officers — was among numerous civilians armed with rifles who interjected themselves into the protests, property destruction and looting that followed Blake’s shooting.
Rittenhouse stands at the center of a heated political debate. Conservatives have cast him as a well-intentioned citizen who exercised his right to self-defense, and gun rights advocates and a foundation with ties to his legal team have raised money for his defense. President Donald Trump has said the teen “probably would have been killed” during the confrontation.
Liberal commentators, meanwhile, have argued that he needlessly killed two people after wading into unrest over police violence against African Americans.
Outside the courthouse Friday, a few people gathered for a vigil to remember those who died.
“I helped organize this rally because I was afraid that gun-toting militias are going to become the new normal in intimidating peaceful protests, and in shutting down the discussions we need to have for racial justice in this country,” said Waukegan precinct committeeman and union organizer Matt Muchowski.
Rittenhouse’s lawyers have contended he clearly fired in self-defense. Defense lawyers in Wisconsin have said the success or failure of a courtroom self-defense claim could hinge on questions about the teen’s actions before he fired and details that have yet to emerge.
If convicted of murder as an adult, Rittenhouse could face a life sentence.
There is plentiful video footage from the night of the Kenosha shootings, and it forms both the basis of prosecutors’ charges and a statement Pierce released in Rittenhouse’s defense shortly after the teen was charged.
Kenosha County prosecutors wrote that video showed the teen running across a parking lot, trailed by Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha. Video showed Rosenbaum appearing to throw a plastic bag at Rittenhouse and missing him, prosecutors wrote. A witness told police that Rosenbaum, who appeared on video to be unarmed, had tried to grab the gun before he was fatally shot, prosecutors wrote.
In his statement, Pierce wrote that Rittenhouse was justified in shooting “an attacker lunging towards him and reaching for his rifle.”
Rittenhouse then ran before someone knocked off his hat, and he tripped and fell, prosecutors wrote. A man carrying a skateboard and later identified as Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake, approached Rittenhouse as he was still on his back, prosecutors wrote. Huber tried to grab the gun as the skateboard “(made) contact” with Rittenhouse’s shoulder before the gunman fired one shot, and Huber collapsed and died, prosecutors alleged.
Prosecutors wrote that Rittenhouse then shot a man who had approached him, Gaige Grosskreutz, of West Allis. Grosskreutz appeared to be holding a handgun when he was wounded in the arm, prosecutors wrote.
Pierce’s statement said that Rittenhouse feared he’d be disarmed and killed and “had no choice but to fire multiple rounds towards his immediate attackers.”
(Lake County News-Sun freelance reporter Karie Angell Luc contributed to this report.)
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