December 7, 2021

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Kyle Rittenhouse looks like he’s headed for an acquittal, legal analyst says – New York Post

4 min read

On Monday, the prosecution’s case against an Illinois teen, 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, collapsed with a confounding unforced error. Watching the trial unfold, I now believe that a key witness’s calm, revelatory description of events, ensured Rittenhouse’s acquittal on five of the six charges in the controversial case.

The Kenosha saga began with the police shooting of knife-wielding Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 23, 2020. Following three days of fiery protests and property destruction, Rittenhouse, then a 17-year-old minor, traveled across state lines, armed with a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifle provided by a friend.

Rittenhouse, a former police cadet from Antioch, Illinois, had publicly stated that his mission was to protect businesses and potential victims of the mayhem. In the ensuing melee, he shot and killed two people and wounded a third. The state of Wisconsin alleges he is a murderer. His defenders describe his actions as self-defense.

He faces six charges: five felonies and one misdemeanor. The most serious is first degree intentional homicide, use of a deadly weapon. With video footage from the scene and witness accounts, this remains an impossible charge to prove. The allegation — analogous to first-degree murder in certain states — requires prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rittenhouse intended to kill a person, Anthony M. Huber, without attendant mitigating circumstances such as self-defense. Videos shot by bystanders show Rittenhouse being chased and threatened throughout the incident.

Kyle Rittenhouse may be heading towards an acquittal in five of the six charges against him at this trial.
Kyle Rittenhouse may be heading towards an acquittal in five of the six charges against him at this trial.
Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool
Rittenhouse's defense attorney cross examines Dr. P. Douglas Kelley of the Milwaukee County Medical Examiners Office.
Rittenhouse’s defense attorney cross examines Dr. P. Douglas Kelley of the Milwaukee County Medical Examiners Office.
ZUMAPRESS.com

Rittenhouse clearly shoots his first victim, Joseph Rosenbaum, according to journalist Richie McGinniss, who witnessed the altercation. But he described Rittenhouse as wheeling around and firing, as Rosenbaum lunged for Rittenhouse’s rifle.

Gaige Grosskreutz was the man who was wounded, and whose testimony spectacularly backfired for the prosecution on Monday. During a skillful cross-examination, Rittenhouse’s attorney, Corey Chirafisi, impelled Grosskreutz to concede that the accused only fired after Grosskreutz pointed his pistol at him while advancing and attempting to disarm him.

The image of Rittenhouse holding a rifle on the streets of Kenosha was a source of outrage, particularly on the left. The prosecution may have been pressured to charge intentional homicide by activists and the very real fears of more deadly riots if state prosecutors failed to bend to their will. This doesn’t mean they have a case.

Kyle Rittenhouse seated between defense attorneys Corey Chirifisi left and Natalie Wisco after the lunch break during his trial.
Kyle Rittenhouse seated between defense attorneys Corey Chirifisi left and Natalie Wisco after the lunch break during his trial.
Getty Images
Rittenhouse carrying a weapon in Kenosha on the night of the shootings on August 25, 2021.
Rittenhouse carrying a weapon in Kenosha on the night of the shootings on August 25, 2021.
Adam Rogan/The Journal Times via AP, File

Rittenhouse, interviewed just prior to the shootings he is charged with, stated his intentions: “Our job is to protect this business, and part of my job is to also help people.”

Was he misguided in transporting a weapon across state lines? Undoubtedly.

But was Rittenhouse also representative of a vast swath of the American public sickened and angered by the media’s attempted portrayal of riots as “mostly peaceful protests?” Recall the time we were asked to disbelieve our lying eyes.

Kyle Rittenhouse never set out to murder innocent people on that fateful night. It is reasonable to conclude he was there, as he suggests, to help protect a business that had been looted, vandalized and firebombed by criminals masquerading as protestors. In many jurisdictions during the civil unrest prevalent during the Summer of 2020, police were “stood down” — directed to back off and allow the anger to work itself off.

Rittenhouse appears to be on his way to an acquittal, according to legal expert James A. Gagliano.
Rittenhouse appears to be on his way to an acquittal, according to legal expert James A. Gagliano.
Getty Images
Gaige Grosskreutz, who was one of the three people shot by Rittenhouse, testifying at the trial.
Gaige Grosskreutz, who was one of the three people shot by Rittenhouse, testifying at the trial.
Photo by Mark Hertzberg-Pool/Getty Images

When cowardly politicians create vacuous policies that lead to a security void, some citizens just might be inclined to step up and fill the void to protect people and property. Again, this doesn’t make Rittenhouse’s actions leading up to the shootings righteous. But it may help one to better understand the mood of a fed-up nation. Simply put — the toleration of lawlessness always encourages more lawlessness.

This prosecution is neither neutral nor dispassionate; reflecting only political expedience. These court proceedings also highlight an overplayed hand. Kyle Rittenhouse may indeed be guilty of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18, the misdemeanor. He was, after all, a minor at the time. But he clearly and unequivocally acted in self-defense. Anything other than an acquittal on the top charges would be a miscarriage of justice.

James A. Gagliano is a retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent and doctoral candidate in Police Use of Force at St. John’s University.

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