By MICHAEL TARM and TODD RICHMOND
KENOSHA, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin judge on Friday approved an agreement by lawyers to destroy the assault-style rifle that Kyle Rittenhouse used to shoot three people during a 2020 street protest.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger said the state crime lab would destroy the gun, probably in April. Judge Bruce Schroeder, the Kenosha County judge who presided over Rittenhouse’s trial, approved the agreement. Rittenhouse was not in court for Friday’s hearing.
Rittenhouse shot the men during the protest in Kenosha in 2020. He killed Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz in the arm. Rittenhouse argued he fired in self-defense after each of the men attacked him. A jury last year acquitted him of multiple charges, including homicide.
Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, filed a motion Jan. 19 asking prosecutors to return Rittenhouse’s rifle, his ammunition, his face mask and other clothing he was wearing the night of the shooting to him. Richards and David Hancock, a spokesman for Rittenhouse, said last week that Rittenhouse, who is now 19, wanted to destroy the rifle and throw the rest of the items away so nothing can be used as a political symbol or trophy celebrating the shootings.
Destruction of the gun will be recorded as part of the agreement that was approved Friday. The rest of Rittenhouse’s property has already been returned to him, Binger told the judge.
Conservatives across the nation have praised Rittenhouse, saying he was defending Kenosha from far-left militants. Liberals have painted him as a trigger-happy vigilante.
Meanwhile, another legal fight is brewing over the fate of the $2 million conservatives raised to cover Rittenhouse’s bail. Richards filed a motion Thursday seeking the money, with plans to divide it between his law firm and the #FightBack Foundation. Attorneys Lin Wood and John Pierce, who were representing Rittenhouse in the early days of case, formed the foundation to raise money for him.
Richards also wants to give $150,000 back to actor Ricky Schroder, who donated to Rittenhouse’s defense.
The Patent and Trademark Hedge Fund Trust filed a motion Thursday laying claim to the $2 million as well. The trust’s attorneys argue they’re Pierce’s creditors so they deserve all the money.
The judge took up the motions Friday, but it was unclear how quickly he might issue a ruling.
Demonstrators took to the streets for a number of nights in Kenosha in August 2020 after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back as Blake was resisting arrest during a domestic disturbance. The shooting left Blake paralyzed from the waist down.
The protests turned chaotic at times, with people burning buildings. Rittenhouse and his friend, Dominick Black, joined a group of militia members to protect a used car lot on the night of Aug. 25, 2020.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at time and living in Antioch, Illinois, was armed with an AR-15-style rifle that Black had purchased for him earlier that year because he was too young to buy a firearm under Wisconsin law.
According to the motion, Black had agreed that the rifle would become Rittenhouse’s property on his 18th birthday, Jan. 3, 2021.
Bystander and surveillance video shows that just before midnight Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse down and Rittenhouse shot him as he closed in on him. He shot Huber after Huber swung a skateboard at his head and Grosskreutz after Grosskreutz ran up to him holding a pistol. Everyone involved in the shooting was white.
Black pleaded no contest to two citations earlier this month for contributing to the delinquency of a minor in exchange for prosecutors dropping two felony charges of intent to sell a dangerous weapon to a person younger than 18.