Rittenhouse’s lawyer responded with a motion saying his client went to an undisclosed “Safe House” location because of death threats and that prosecutors would not agree to keep that address private when informed of the plans more than two months ago. Rittenhouse “has stayed in constant contact” with his attorney, the motion says.
Rittenhouse has become a lightning rod in the country’s partisan divides over last year’s racial justice protests and who should bear blame for the deadly violence that sometimes erupted. Some condemned the teenager as a dangerous vigilante; others rallied behind him after he was accused of killing two men and injuring a third during unrest after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man.
Invoking the outside funding that bought Rittenhouse’s release, prosecutors asked a judge to raise Rittenhouse’s bond by $200,000. Rittenhouse and his family did not post money toward his release previously and he already faces life in prison, so he has “no financial stake” in following the rules of his bond, officials argued.
It is “extremely unusual for a defendant facing a charge of first-degree intentional homicide in Kenosha County to post cash bond and be released from custody pending trial,” prosecutors state in their motion, saying it is crucial that officials be able to monitor Rittenhouse’s whereabouts. “Rarely does our community see accused murderers roaming about freely.”
Prosecutors say Rittenhouse’s bond requires him to alert the court of any change in address or phone number within 48 hours. A recent notice could not be delivered to Rittenhouse at his listed address in Antioch, Ill., they said, and another man told police he had been living there since mid-December.
Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, said in his motion filed Wednesday that officials can learn the safe house location provided it is kept from the public. Police told a former member of the defense team in the fall not to give out the address, Richards said.
His motion cites a November email from Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger, in which Binger references Wisconsin’s “proud history of open records and government transparency” and says he is “reluctant to make an exception to the normal practices.”
Unless the defense can provide a “specific, tangible and imminent threat ... that would justify secrecy in this case, I am not willing to agree to redact your client’s address from the public record,” Binger wrote, according to email copies that Richards filed with the court.
Richards said making Rittenhouse’s location available to the public “would result in immediately harm to the Rittenhouse family.”
Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the Aug. 25 shooting, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide, among other offenses. He is accused of killing Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26.
“If convicted, the defendant will almost certainly serve the remainder of his life in prison,” prosecutors’ motion says.
Speaking publicly to The Washington Post for the first time after his arrest last year, Rittenhouse said he did not regret having a gun the night of the violence. “I feel I had to protect myself,” he said. “I would have died that night if I didn’t.”
The shooting unfolded just before midnight, after protesters converged on Kenosha in outrage over the latest viral-video police shooting of a Black man. Rittenhouse was among those who answered a right-wing armed group’s call for “patriots willing to take up arms and defend [our] City tonight from the evil thugs.”
Rittenhouse quickly became a celebrity of the right, while others held up those shot as anti-racist martyrs. But the true story was complex — a deadly confrontation more accidental than political. Rosenbaum, a homeless man just released from a hospital after a suicide attempt, had never been to a protest. Huber was attending his second, carrying a skateboard and a cellphone to document the night.
Prosecutors have already sought to modify the terms of Rittenhouse’s bond once: On Jan. 13, district attorneys petitioned the judge to prohibit the 18-year-old from consuming alcohol or entering bars as well as from associating with any “violent white power/white supremacist groups” or displaying signs or symbols associated with the movement.
The January motion came after photos and video surveillance footage emerged that prosecutors said showed Rittenhouse at a Mount Pleasant, Wis., bar drinking, flashing white-power hand signs and posing with members of the Proud Boys within hours of his virtual arraignment on Jan. 5. The Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence, have been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Under Wisconsin law, adults under 21 can drink alcohol in bars if accompanied by a parent. Rittenhouse was allegedly accompanied by his mother.