Volumes of politically charged commentary, two weeks of testimony and close to 3 1/2 days of deliberation came to a stunning conclusion today as a verdict of not guilty on all charges was announced in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, 18.
The Illinois teen, then 17, fatally shot two men and wounded a third on Aug. 25, 2020, during a night of unrest after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
A jury of seven women and five men brought the verdict before Judge Bruce Schroeder, who presided over an often-tumultuous trial.
Prior to the announcement, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers mobilized roughly 500 National Guard troops to help with anticipated post-verdict protests and "support local partners in ensuring public safety in conjunction with hundreds of officers from volunteering law enforcement agencies."
Rittenhouse was 17 when he left his home in Antioch, Illinois, to join other armed volunteers to protect private property during the social justice protest that followed Blake's shooting, per the Washington Post. Acting in what he testified was self-defense, Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26. He also shot and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, then 26.
Rittenhouse was acquitted of five counts, including homicide and attempted homicide. If found guilty of the most serious charge against him, he could have received life in prison, per The Associated Press.
"Mr. Rosenbaum was shot because he was chasing my client because he was going to kill him, take his gun and carry out the threats he made," lead defense attorney Mark Richards said of Rittenhouse's actions.
"When my client shot Joseph Rosenbaum, he feared for his life," Richards added in closing arguments Monday. "He feared because of the prior threats to prior statements and the violent acts witnessed by my client."
Prosecutors, however, painted Rittenhouse as a violent aggressor who acted recklessly. "If you created the danger, you forfeit the right to self-defense by bringing that gun, aiming at people, threatening people's lives," lead prosecutor Thomas Binger said in his own closing arguments. "The defendant provoked everything."
The months leading up to the trial only escalated its political nature, with prominent liberals calling for a guilty verdict long before the trial and conservatives raising over $650,000 for Rittenhouse's defense as of last month through the "Free Kyle" website. Television star and activist Ricky Schroeder donated toward the defendant's $2 million bail last year.
President Joe Biden famously tweeted commentary labeling Rittenhouse as a "white supremacist" on a video that contained footage of him after a 2020 presidential debate. Rittenhouse's mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, told talk show host Sean Hannity of her response to Biden's commentary, per The Hill.
"When I saw that, I was in shock," Wendy Rittenhouse said. "I was angry. President Biden don't know my son whatsoever, and he's not a white supremacist. He's not a racist. [Biden] did that for the votes."
As the jury deliberated, conservative activist and Blexit founder Candace Schroeder countered basketball star LeBron James' tweeted support of a guilty verdict with her own commentary on Twitter:
The white man who chased Kyle Rittenhouse was a convicted pedophile who spent 12 years in prison for sexually assaulting a child. He was also dropping the n word while he chased Kyle.— Candace Owens (@RealCandaceO) November 16, 2021
Naturally, @KingJames is defending him bc he ALWAYS defends criminals—even pedos now! https://t.co/tQus26x0dC
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