kyle rittenhouse trial kenosha shooting
© Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool
Kyle Rittenhouse, center, looks up and away from a video monitor as footage of him shooting on the night of Aug. 25, 2020, is shown during the trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Wednesday, Nov. 3 2021.
The judge presiding in the homicide trial for Kyle Rittenhouse signaled Friday he may "inform the jury" about gun possession exemptions found in Wisconsin's gun law after the defense sought acquittal for a misdemeanor charge in the case.

Rittenhouse, 18, testified earlier this week that he acted in self-defense when he fatally shot two protesters and wounded a third in August 2020 after riots erupted in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

The defendant faces five first-degree felony charges and one misdemeanor charge for possession of a dangerous weapon under the age of 18.

Defense attorney Corey Chirafisi cited Wisconsin Statute 948.60 on Friday, claiming his client was not subject to the law due to a narrow exemption. The statute's second section (2)(a) states: "Any person under 18 years of age who possesses or goes armed with a dangerous weapon is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor."

However, a third section under the law lists exemptions. That section states it applies only to a person under 18 years of age carrying a gun who is in "violation of s. 941.28 or is not in compliance with ss. 29.304 and 29.593 ."

According to 941.28, short-barreled shotguns or short-barreled rifles are firearms that require a separate license under the National Firearms Act. Such rifles typically have a barrel less than 16 inches in length or shotguns with a barrel less than 18 inches in length, or either which have an overall length of less than 26 inches. Rittenhouse's AR-style weapon is classified as a rifle and does not fall into either category, according to law enforcement detective testimony the defense claims to possess.

Statute 29.304 places "restrictions on hunting and use of firearms by persons under 16 years of age." Chirafisi conceded "he's in violation of 29.593," however, he argued Rittenhouse wasn't in violation of 29.304, saying, "he [was] 17. It doesn't apply — it can't apply — Because of his age."

Just before Chirafisi's statement, Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder said he was inclined to "inform the jury" after reviewing evidence transcripts.

District Attorney James Kraus, who is prosecuting the case alongside Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, argued, "Simply because he's 17 does not automatically negate (2)(a)."

Schroeder did drop another minor misdemeanor charge, a curfew violation citation against Rittenhouse, on Tuesday after the judge ruled that the state failed to provide evidence of the order. It was the least serious of all the charges.

The judge will issue final rulings over the case on Saturday and jurors will be instructed they can consider lesser charges as part of instructions they receive before deliberations begin. Schroeder told Rittenhouse that by including the lesser charges, he was "raising the risk of conviction, although you're avoiding the possibility that the jury will end up compromising on the more serious crime." He also said he would decrease the risk of a second trial if the jury is unable to compromise.


Comment: Meanwhile political opponents continue to harass the court. The Washington Examiner reports:
The Kenosha County Courthouse received threatening emails, letters, postcards, and faxes accusing Wisconsin Judge Bruce Schroeder of racism and asking him to resign in addition to warnings about Rittenhouse's safety if he is acquitted by a jury. There were also threats against the judge's children, according to the Daily Mail .



Despite the defense team's efforts to dismiss the gun possession charge against Rittenhouse, legal experts have said it might be a strategic ploy to allow the jury to convict on a lesser charge to minimize the risk of a life sentence on one of his more serious charges.

"I think the government overcharged the case," Paul Bucher , a defense attorney and former 30-year prosecutor in Wisconsin, told the Washington Examiner. "If I were seated in that chair, I would have focused on three counts: two homicides [and] one attempted homicide. That's it."

Last year, Rittenhouse, then 17, of nearby Antioch, Illinois, traveled to Kenosha on Aug. 25, carrying a rifle across state lines, and claimed he was there to aid nearby businesses after the town sustained heavy damage from riots following the death of Blake.

Rittenhouse's felony counts include first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and first-degree reckless endangerment. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to all charges.