Kyle Rittenhouse, who is charged with killing two people during unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer, will remain free on $2 million bond despite prosecutors’ efforts to have him rearrested after violating the terms of his release.
Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder denied the motion at a virtual hearing Thursday that included statements from the man who survived being shot by Rittenhouse and the father of one who did not.
Schroeder acknowledged the 18-year old had failed to keep the court apprised of his residence, but dismissed arguments by Assistant District Attorney Thomas C. Binger on technical grounds, noting Rittenhouse’s release conditions require him to provide the court with his address but do not require him to actually reside there.
“To issue a warrant now for a defendant that has appeared at every hearing would be breaking the law and I’m not going to do it,” Schroeder said, adding that he lacked the authority to issue the kind of warrant Binger requested. ” I don’t agree with his analysis of what the circumstances are.”
At Thursday’s hearing, Schroeder also rejected calls to raise Rittenhouse’s existing bail despite pleas from John Huber, whose son Anthony was among the men Rittenhouse killed, and Gaige Grosskreutz, who survived being shot by Rittenhouse.
Kenosha County prosecutors petitioned the court last week to rearrest Rittenhouse and increase his bond by $200,000 after they said he did not properly disclose his address; Rittenhouse’s lawyers responded that he moved to a safe house at an undisclosed location because of threats against his life.
The legal battle about Rittenhouse’s release terms is just the latest flare-up in a case that has become politically polarizing — with Rittenhouse as the divisive central figure. Several pro-gun and conservative groups have embraced the 18-year-old as a hero; critics, meanwhile, assail Rittenhouse as a dangerous vigilante who broke the law and is now being shielded from consequences that nonwhite defendants rarely avoid.
Neither Kenosha County prosecutors nor Mark D. Richards, one Rittenhouse’s attorneys, responded to requests for comment ahead of Thursday’s hearing.
Prosecutors only recently learned that Rittenhouse was not residing at the address in Antioch, Illinois, when court papers came back as undeliverable and new residents were found to be living at the location. Rittenhouse’s team listed the Antioch address in court filings as recently as January.
The defense filed an updated address under seal last week, which Binger said was only a post office box and not a residence.
“The defendant continues to withhold his actual whereabouts from the Court even under seal,” Binger wrote in a filing last week. Binger told the court that permitting Rittenhouse to “roam freely” before trial is “extremely rare for an accused murderer” and argued that his address should be made public.
Rittenhouse is charged with killing Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, with an AR-15-style rifle on Aug. 25 after protests following the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha police devolved into a chaotic scene that included arson and looting.
Lawyer John Pierce, who until last week was part of Rittenhouse’s civil defense team, wrote in a November affidavit that Rittenhouse, his family and his legal team had been inundated with deadly threats since his arrest.
“Half the country would like to see this kid killed,” Pierce said.
As of last week, Pierce told The Washington Post that he was not able to immediately produce copies of the threats Rittenhouse received, saying they were diffused across multiple social media platforms, and email and voice mail accounts of different parties. Pierce described some of the messages as threatening grave bodily harm.
Prior email and phone requests seeking copies of the threats from Richards and Corey Chirafisi, another of Rittenhouse’s attorneys in the criminal case, were not returned.
Only 17 at the time of the shootings and too young to legally possess the assault rifle-style firearm in Wisconsin, Rittenhouse previously told The Washington Post that he had a friend purchase the weapon on his behalf using money from a government stimulus program. On the night of the shooting, Rittenhouse traveled across the Illinois border to Kenosha in response to a call-out by a self-styled militia group in Kenosha for “patriots” to protect local businesses.
Rittenhouse’s legal team said the shootings were in self-defense, an argument that attracted conservative supporters — including then-President Donald Trump — who cast him as a foil to protesters. Rittenhouse secured his freedom in November after online supporters raise his $2 million cash bond.
After Rittenhouse was released on bond, he was spotted at a bar in Wisconsin (adults younger than 21 can drink in Wisconsin if accompanied by a parent) posing for celebratory photos with members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence, while flashing hand signs associated with white supremacy.
The bar scene prompted prosecutors to adjust the terms of his release and prohibit him from drinking alcohol, displaying signs or symbols linked to white supremacy and affiliating with white supremacist groups.
In Kenosha, where Black and Latino residents have long complained of disparate treatment by police and the justice system, many have questioned what they view as more lenient treatment of Rittenhouse, who is white, despite the seriousness of his charges.
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The Washington Post’s Mark Berman contributed to this report.