WAUKEGAN, Illinois – An Illinois judge on Friday ordered Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old accused of killing two protesters and injuring a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to be extradited on homicide charges.
He was transported to Kenosha County Jail on Friday afternoon, a sheriff’s spokesman said.
During a hearing Friday morning, Rittenhouse’s attorney argued that what he called a technical error in Wisconsin’s extradition request means Rittenhouse should be released from custody where he’d been held since fatally shooting two people and wounding a third during unrest in Kenosha in August.
In a written order issued around 3:20 p.m., Lake County Circuit Judge Paul Novak agreed with prosecutors that the paperwork was entirely in order, and would be sufficient even if the defense’s claim about how the Kenosha complaint was signed were accepted as true.
The defense had also claimed that Illinois would violate Rittenhouse’s constitutional rights by sending him to Wisconsin. Novak noted the holding state plays a limited role in extradition, and that Rittenhouse’s constitutional and self-defense claims need to be raised in Wisconsin.
Novak wrote that, under Illinois law, he may not decide the validity of Rittenhouse’s self-defense, or Wisconsin’s law that 17-year-olds are charged as adults, or consider potential political implications of Kenosha District Attorney Michael Graveley’s charging decisions, or opine on Rittenhouse’s future safety in Wisconsin custody.
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A lawyer on Rittenhouse’s defense team tweeted earlier that they would appeal any adverse decision by Novak.
Since he turned himself in to police in his hometown of Antioch, Illinois, early on Aug. 26, Rittenhouse had been held at Lake County’s juvenile detention center.
Late Friday, the Journal Sentinel obtained records of that event, after suing under Illinois open records law weeks earlier. The records describe Rittenhouse going through cycles of calm, then crying and vomiting as he told Antioch police he had “ended a life.”
He told police he and a friend had been hired to protect a business in Kenosha. The owner of Car Source, which had three properties along Sheridan Road in Kenosha which all suffered damage, denied to the Journal Sentinel that he hired anyone to act as armed security for his businesses.
Antioch police noted they let Kyle talk to his sisters by phone, but that he became more upset learning that he was already identified and being discussed all over social media, just hours after the shootings.
Friday’s hearing — attended by more than a dozen reporters from media outlets nationwide — was a letdown of sorts. Lead defense attorney John Pierce had earlier filed a notice that he planned to call four expert witnesses and Rittenhouse’s mother as witnesses relevant to constitutional claims the defense hopes to raise.
But Pierce started off by saying he and his co-counsel had reconsidered their strategy and would instead “laser focus” on the legal sufficiency of the extradition papers.
Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Scheller argued that that was all that ever could be at issue in a summary proceeding like extradition. Rittenhouse, he said, is free to raise constitutional claims of self-defense and the thoroughness of the investigation behind the complaint — once he gets to Wisconsin.
The extradition papers, Scheller said, including warrants for both states’ governors, were to be considered in total. He noted that while the criminal complaint charging Rittenhouse with homicide and other counts was sworn by one prosecutor before another, a third Kenosha County prosecutor executed his own sworn affidavit, referencing the complaint, before a judge who determined there was probable cause to charge Rittenhouse.
Pierce disagreed, citing Illinois case law he said clearly supports his position that extradition must fail because of how the Kenosha County criminal complaint was signed.
“It’s not an empty formality,” Pierce said.
Toward the end of his legal argument, Pierce said, “I do believe, from the bottom of my heart, that this is a political prosecution,” which led to an objection from Scheller.
Pierce said his comment was aimed not at anyone in the courtroom, but “at high-ranking officials in both states,” who, he thinks, should be aware the prosecution is a fraud.
Rittenhouse, 17, appeared in court in a light blue shirt and dark tie, led into the room by three sheriff’s deputies in tactical gear. Like everyone, he wore a face mask. He had very little interaction with Pierce and Andrew Calderon, another lawyer from Pierce’s Los Angeles law firm, during the hearing.
Since his arrest following the Aug. 26 shootings, Rittenhouse has become a cause célèbre in certain conservative circles. The night before his first court appearance last month, his mother and Pierce got a standing ovation at a meeting of Waukesha County Republicans when introduced by conservative commentator Michelle Malkin.
While he and other armed men said they were guarding Kenosha businesses, Rittenhouse fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz. The shootings were caught on video that Rittenhouse’s lawyers say show he acted in self-defense in each instance.
Although Rittenhouse raised his arms and walked toward police to surrender after the shootings, they ignored him, and he went home Antioch, Illinois, where he was arrested the next morning.
The unrest in Kenosha followed the police shooting two days earlier of Jacob Blake, 29, a Black man, by a white Kenosha police officer, which was also captured on video. The officer fired seven times at Blake’s back, and the shots left him paralyzed.
That shooting was investigated by the state Department of Justice, whose report is now under review by former Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, who is acting as a consultant to Graveley, who will decide whether the officer, Rusten Sheskey, should face criminal charges.
Follow Bruce Vielmetti on Twitter: @ProofHearsay.