Wednesday, 20 Jan 2021

Teen charged in Kenosha killings delays extradition hearing

Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, requests a delay for transfer to Wisconsin while searching for private legal counsel.

A judge has agreed on Friday to delay for a month a decision on whether a 17-year-old from Illinois should be returned to Wisconsin to face charges accusing him of fatally shooting two protesters and wounding a third during a night of unrest following the weekend police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.

The Illinois judge postponed Kyle Rittenhouse’s extradition hearing to September 25 during a brief hearing that was streamed online. Rittenhouse faces five felony charges, including first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide and a misdemeanour charge for possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor.

Rittenhouse did not appear in the livestreamed hearing, where his lawyer Jennifer Snyder, an assistant public defender in Lake County, Illinois, asked for the delay. The judge said Rittenhouse had been allowed to speak by phone with his mother and was in the process of hiring a lawyer.

Rittenhouse, a white teen who was armed with a semi-automatic rifle as he walked Kenosha’s streets with other armed civilians during this week’s protests, would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree intentional homicide.

Under Wisconsin law, anyone 17 or older is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.

He was taken into custody on Wednesday in Antioch, Illinois, the city about 24 kilometres (15 miles) from Kenosha where he lives.

The shootings late on Tuesday were largely caught on cellphone video and posted online. The shooting by police on Sunday of Blake, a 29-year-old Black father of six who was left paralysed from the waist down, was also caught on cellphone video.

That shooting made Kenosha the latest focal point in the fight against racial injustice that has gripped the country since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Three nights later, Rittenhouse was armed and on the streets of Kenosha, saying that he was protecting businesses from protesters, according to widely circulating cellphone footage.

Prosecutors used that footage to piece together the events. 

The criminal complaint said that Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, of Kenosha, followed Rittenhouse into a used-car lot, where he appeared to throw a plastic bag at the gunman which did not hit Rittenhouse. Rosenbaum “continued to move across the parking lot”, a loud bang is heard on the video, then Rosembaum “appears to continue to approach the defendant” as he gets in “near proximity” “four more loud bangs are heard'” on the video. 

The medical examiner found that Rosenbaum was shot in the groin and back – which fractured his pelvis and perforated his right lung and liver – and his left hand.

He also suffered a superficial wound to his left thigh and a graze wound to his forehead.

As he is on the ground, Rittenhouse “approaches Rosenbaum” then “appears to get on his cellphone and place a call”. Running away from the scene he can be heard saying, “I just killed somebody.”

Rittenhouse then ran down the street and was chased by several people shouting that he just shot someone before he tripped and fell, according to the complaint and video footage. Anthony Huber, 26, of Silver Lake, was shot in the chest after apparently trying to wrest the gun from Rittenhouse, the complaint said.

Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, who appeared to be holding a gun, was then shot in the left arm after approaching Rittenhouse, the complaint said.

Rittenhouse’s lawyer, Lin Wood, said on Thursday that the teenager was acting in self-defence.

Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis appeared to suggest the killings would not have happened if people upheld the curfew at a Wednesday news conference.  

“Everybody involved was out after the curfew,” Miskinis said. “I’m not gonna make a great deal of it but the point is – the curfew’s in place to protect. Had persons not been out involved in violation of that, perhaps the situation that unfolded would not have happened.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has called for the resignation of Beth and Miskinis.  

“The ACLU strongly condemns Sheriff Beth and Police Chief Miskinis’ response to both the attempted murder of Jacob Blake and the protests demanding justice for him. Their actions uphold and defend white supremacy, while demonizing people who were murdered for exercising their first amendment rights and speaking out against police violence”, wrote Chris Ott, executive director of the ACLU-Wisconsin. “The only way to rectify these actions is for both Sheriff Beth and Police Chief Daniel Miskinis to immediately tender their resignations.”

If the two law enforcement leaders do not tender their resignations, the “ACLU is calling for Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian to demand the police chief’s removal by the Kenosha Police and Fire Commission, and the sheriff’s removal”, the letter concluded.  

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