The jury in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse reached a verdict on Friday afternoon, the judge said, several days after the jury broke into deliberations. Several moments later, Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all charges.
Rittenhouse was charged with five felony charges and one misdemeanor charge. The most serious charge is intentional homicide, Wisconsin’s top murder charge, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
The other charges are reckless homicide, attempted homicide, two counts of reckless endangerment, and being a minor illegally in possession of a firearm. The firearm charge was dismissed by the judge on Monday. Previously, Rittenhouse was also charged with violating curfew, but that charge was dismissed by the judge last week as well.
He pled not guilty to all charges.
Rittenhouse, who is now 18, lives in Antioch, a northern suburb of Chicago about 15 miles from Kenosha, where his father lived and where he worked as a lifeguard. On August 25 of last year when he was 17, Rittenhouse decided to patrol the downtown Kenosha area alongside other armed men in order to protect a used car dealership from looting and vandalism. The city had devolved into rioting over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, by a white Kenosha police officer.
Rittenhouse took a medical kit and armed himself with a Smith & Wesson M&P15, which is an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle that police say his friend, Dominick Black, illegally bought for him. He was chased by several protesters and ended up fatally shooting two men, Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and shooting and injuring another, Gaige Grosskreutz.
The trial lasted two weeks and a day, ending on Monday with closing arguments. The defense team remained staunch in its argument that the teen shot in self-defense because he was afraid for his life, while the prosecution cast Rittenhouse as a vigilante out looking for trouble and even violence on the night of the unrest in Kenosha.
During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger argued that even before the first shooting, Rittenhouse was pointing his gun at people in a threatening manner. Protesters who intervened, including the men who were shot, were stepping in to try to stop Rittenhouse from harming people, Binger argued.
Binger also called Rittenhouse’s character into question, asking whether it is “heroic or honorable” to shoot unarmed people. Rosenbaum and Huber were indeed unarmed, but the man Rittenhouse injured, Grosskreutz, was pointing a handgun at Rittenhouse when he was shot.
“That crowd was full of heroes,” Binger told the jury.
The defense offered a starkly different characterization of Rittenhouse and the events of the night of the shootings.
Rosenbaum was a threat, a “bad man,” and a “rioter,” and Rittenhouse “had to deal with him that night, alone,” lead defense attorney Mark Richards said in his closing arguments to the jury.
Richards argued that Huber attempted to seriously harm Rittenhouse by hitting him with a skateboard, and that Grosskreutz was attempting to shoot him.
“This case is not a game, this is my client’s life,” Richards said. “Every person who was shot was attacking Kyle.”
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