Kyle Rittenhouse extradition hearing delayed as lawyer claims a ‘political prosecution’

By Mark Guarino

Oct. 9, 2020 at 3:44 p.m. CDT

An extradition hearing for Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager accused of killing two men and wounding a third during unrest in Kenosha, Wis., has been delayed after Rittenhouse’s attorney claimed he needed time to read the state’s argument for what the lawyer claimed was “a political prosecution.”

Rittenhouse is currently in a juvenile detention facility in Lake County, Ill. He attended the hearing virtually, wearing a gray mask. He has been charged with six counts — including two homicide charges — after two people were killed and one wounded during a chaotic night of demonstrations sparked by the August shooting of Jacob Blake by police.

Rittenhouse, 17, is fighting to remain in Illinois, where he lives, instead of being prosecuted in Wisconsin. Rittenhouse’s lawyer, John Pierce, argued that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense and moving him to stand trial in Wisconsin would violate his constitutional rights and threaten his safety.

“To extradite Rittenhouse would be to turn him over to the mob,” Pierce said.

In a 16-page petition filed late Thursday, Pierce described Rittenhouse as someone “who answered his patriotic and civic duty to serve” Kenosha “during a destructive insurrection” in August.

“The premature and unsupported charges are contributing to an unwarranted public condemnation. Rittenhouse has been publicly branded a ‘mass murderer,’ a ‘terrorist,’ a ‘racist’ and more,” Pierce wrote.

The petition also states that Wisconsin would jail Rittenhouse as an adult, which would subject the teenager “to a legion of hazards.”

Judge Paul Novak scheduled the extradition hearing for Oct. 30. Prosecutors urged the court to move faster. Pierce asked for the prosecution’s arguments in writing before the next hearing.

Illinois Assistant State’s Attorney Steve Scheller said he could provide the material in three days and argued against holding another briefing hearing.

“This case has been dragging on and on and is already in October. We want a hearing as soon as possible,” he said.

Rittenhouse was heavily armed the night of Aug. 25, answering a call for “patriots” in the streets of Kenosha, where days of unrest erupted after Blake, who is Black, was shot in the back seven times by a White police officer.

Rittenhouse is accused of killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, all of whom attended the protests. Rosenbaum was seen chasing Rittenhouse down the street, though it is unclear what provoked the confrontation. Rosenbaum then threw a hospital bag at Rittenhouse, missed, and charged at the teenager. According to the petition, a shot was fired nearby and Rittenhouse started shooting after Rosenbaum tried to grab his rifle. Pierce said Rittenhouse was responding to a shot fired in his direction and acted in self-defense.

Rittenhouse then ran down the street, chased by a crowd of demonstrators. Rittenhouse fell to the ground and fired after Huber swung a skateboard at him and tried to grab his gun. Authorities said Rittenhouse shot Grosskreutz, who approached Rittenhouse afterward. Pierce’s petition said that Grosskreutz “lowered his handgun” in Rittenhouse’s direction.

President Trump, who has blamed left-wing extremists for violence in Kenosha and elsewhere, spoke about Rittenhouse at a White House briefing last month.

“He was trying to get away from them. I guess it looks like he fell and then they very violently attacked him,” Trump said. “But I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed.”

Pierce’s petition also states that extradition documents are “deficient” because they missed a required signature and the arrest paperwork “contains false statements.”

Prosecutors continued to say a delay was unnecessary.

Jeff Neslund, a Chicago-based criminal defense attorney, said fighting extradition is extremely rare. Extradition typically gets a procedural hearing to move a defendant to the jurisdiction where the crime is alleged to have happened. It is usually a “delay tactic” when used otherwise, he said.

“I cannot see a legitimate basis not to send [Rittenhouse] back to Wisconsin. The idea that a mob will get him absurd on its face,” Neslund said.

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