KENOSHA — Prosecutors are asking the Kenosha County Court to allow evidence they argue shows Kyle Rittenhouse assaulting a teenage girl two months prior to the Kenosha shooting, and shows him associating with the Proud Boys after he was released from jail.
Rittenhouse, 18, is facing one count of 1st-degree intentional homicide, one count of 1st-degree reckless homicide and one count of attempted 1st-degree intentional homicide in the deadly shooting in Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020. Prosecutors say Rittenhouse shot and killed two people and injured a third with an assault rifle-style weapon during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse argues he fired in self defense, and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
While prosecutors have alleged Rittenhouse associated with the Proud Boys before, following a visit he made to a Mount Pleasant bar this year, claims that Rittenhouse physically assaulted a female have not been made public.
In Wisconsin, judges must determine if 'other-acts' evidence can be shown to jurors in a trial. Prosecutors made their case that these two packages of evidence should be, even though the incidents themselves did not happen on the night of Aug. 25.
Rittenhouse's defense attorneys filed a motion late Thursday requesting the "other-acts" evidence be excluded in the trial, arguing that the July 1 incident is irrelevant and that there is no evidence proving Rittenhouse is associated with the Proud Boys.
Evidence of alleged assault
Kenosha County prosecutors filed a motion to the court Thursday alleging Rittenhouse assaulted a female on July 1, 2020. The motion states that video shows Rittenhouse near the lakefront in Kenosha with several other people close to his own age. He was 17 years old at the time.
Prosecutors say the video appears to show two teenage girls in a "heated argument" while the others stood by. At first it appeared the teens were going to break apart and go their separate ways, prosecutors say, but "something then sets off the two female teenagers, and they begin to fight," according to the motion.
Prosecutors say Rittenhouse then involves himself by grabbing one of the girls from the back, as she is "grappling" with the other girl. The motion states Rittenhouse begins to punch the first girl in the back repeatedly with a closed fist.
The girl is then pulled away from Rittenhouse due to her struggle with the second girl. Prosecutors say Rittenhouse chases after her and begins to punch her in the back again.
Several other people rush towards Rittenhouse to break up the fight, prosecutors say. The video, which was not made public by the DA's Office, then ends.
Prosecutors allege both the above July 1 incident and the Kenosha shooting show Rittenhouse's consistent motive, who they say "willingly and intentionally put himself in violent situations in Wisconsin that do not involve him in order to commit further acts of violence."
Prosecutors further argue that the video evidence is relevant as the incidents happened in the same city several months apart.
According to the motion filed by Rittenhouse's defense attorneys, the "incident occurred almost two months prior to the allegations which Mr. Rittenhouse is on trial for in this matter. There is no indication that any of the parties involved in the July 1, 2020 altercation were involved in the August 25, 2020 incident underlying the charges in this case."
They add that Rittenhouse's younger sister, McKenzie, was involved in the fight with the other girl.
Evidence of alleged Proud Boys association
The motion also asks for the court to allow evidence allegedly showing Rittenhouse associating with the Proud Boys. The Kenosha County District Attorney's Office describes the Proud Boys as a "violently racist organization whose members take pride in assaulting members of racial
minorities, particularly Black Lives Matter protesters."
Rittenhouse visited Pudgy’s Pub in Mount Pleasant on Jan. 5, 2021 shortly after he was released on a $2 million bond. Prosecutors previously attempted to change Rittenhouse's bond agreement after they say he flashed white-power signs while posing for photos, drank several beers and was 'loudly serenaded' with the Proud Boys' official song.
Prosecutors said in Thursday's motion that they have since learned the people he socialized with at the bar included the leader of the Wisconsin chapter of the Proud Boys and several of the group's highest-ranking members.
"Obviously, the defendant shares their beliefs and has, in fact, been named an honorary member of the organization," according to the motion.
Prosecutors argue photos and video showing Rittenhouse's encounter at the bar are both relevant and admissable to the Kenosha shooting case.
"The fact that he has since celebrated his notoriety strongly suggests that he set out to achieve the goal of becoming famous. Because the defendant’s association with the Proud Boys goes directly to his intent and motive, as well as his claim of self-defense, the Court should admit evidence of this fact at trial," according to prosecutor's motion.
According to Rittenhouse's defense attorneys, "There is no information that Mr. Rittenhouse knew the males prior to that date, or that he has any association with the Proud Boys. There has been no evidence provided which in any way ties Mr. Rittenhouse’s presence in Kenosha on August 25, 2020 to any group, white nationalist or otherwise."
Rittenhouse has a hearing regarding Thursday's motion on Sept. 17 and jury selection is set to begin Nov. 1. His trial may begin before the end of the year.