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Kyle Rittenhouse named in civil suit filed by parents of man killed in Kenosha

Hannah Gittings, center, the girlfriend of Anthony Huber, receives a hug after speaking at a news conference following Kyle Rittenhouse's acquittal in November. (Joshua Lott/The Washington Post)
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Huber lived with his aunt as a child and teenager. The story has been corrected.

Kyle Rittenhouse has been added as a defendant to a civil lawsuit filed by the parents of Anthony Huber, a Wisconsin man Rittenhouse fatally shot in Kenosha during street protests in August 2020.

In a criminal trial last November, Rittenhouse was found not guilty of five charges related to killing Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum and injuring Gaige Grosskreutz with an AR-15-style rifle. A civil trial could replay evidence against the 18-year-old before a jury, in addition to statements he has made in right-wing media since going free. The suit does not specify any monetary damages, but attorneys for the parents filed a $10 million claim notice in December.

“He’s responsible,” John Huber said of Rittenhouse, who fired at Anthony Huber after Huber struck him with a skateboard during a foot chase. Rittenhouse “killed two people. He became an active shooter and my son tried to stop him,” John Huber said. “Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to stop him, and he lost his life in the process.”

Huber’s parents filed the original lawsuit against the city of Kenosha and the Kenosha Police Department last August. The updated motion adds Rittenhouse and seven law enforcement agencies and counties from the area as defendants.

According to Ayesha Bell Hardaway, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, the self-defense argument made by Rittenhouse’s lawyers during the criminal trial “won’t absolve him” in a civil trial because the threshold for liability is much lower.

“In broad strokes they are saying [Huber’s] constitutional rights to be free of excessive force were violated because law enforcement worked in concert with Kyle Rittenhouse to intimidate and ultimately to kill peaceful protesters who were there to exercise their rights,” she said.

Among the evidence that will likely be used in trial are video of police handing Rittenhouse water and telling him and other armed citizens that their presence was appreciated, as well as video showing law enforcement standing down while arguments between protesters and armed citizens intensified. The filing says it has internal communications from law enforcement showing the police knew there were “pro-police armed individuals” gathered south of the courthouse and “they deliberately funneled protestors” toward them.

Arthur Aidala, a New York defense attorney who represented Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein, compared civil litigation against Rittenhouse to the O.J. Simpson case in which the former football star was acquitted in his criminal trial but found guilty in civil proceedings.

The Hubers’ lawyers will need “clear and convincing evidence” that there was collusion between law enforcement and local gunmen, because otherwise a conspiracy “is hard to prove,” he said. A more winning strategy will be if they can show that law enforcement “was simply negligent in their ability to protect the deceased,” Aidala added.

In an interview with The Washington Post, John Huber accused law enforcement of purposely antagonized protesters by forcing them away from the courthouse square and toward “the vigilantes so they could deal with them.”

“They handled it badly. Plain and simple. And their policies of how to handle the situation were all bad. All the way to the top,” he said.

Emailed requests for comment to attorneys representing the city of Kenosha, the city’s police department and the various municipal law enforcement agencies were not returned.

A spokesperson for Rittenhouse did not respond to a request for comment. Sam Hall, a Milwaukee-based attorney who is representing Kenosha County and Sheriff David Beth, responded with a statement calling the allegations against Beth and the sheriff’s office “demonstrably false.” “While we understand that the family of Anthony Huber is grieving his loss, we must make it clear … that the facts will show that Mr. Huber’s death was not caused by any actions or inactions of Kenosha County law enforcement.”

‘He loved Kenosha’

Huber, who turned 26 four days before he was killed, grew up in a small house with his mother, grandmother, a half sister and half brother. He struggled with bipolar disorder, according to his great-aunt and confidante, Susan Hughes. He used his skateboard for both recreation and transportation, and was a familiar sight throughout Kenosha, she said.

During the criminal trial, Rittenhouse attorney Mark Richards described Huber as “a rioter” who was “trying to take [Rittenhouse’s] head off.”

His family disputes that characterization. No video exists of Huber participating in any vandalism or violence. Hughes said that Huber was a friend of Jacob Blake, the Black man who was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer days before. Huber went out that night, she said, to “be present” and to document the protests with his smartphone.

“He loved Kenosha. He had a lot of friends there. And a lot of people loved Anthony. He wouldn’t do anything to [local] businesses. That was his playground,” John Huber said.

At 18, Huber was charged with several felonies related to a fight with his older half brother and was sent to jail for 138 days before being sentenced to probation. In 2017, Huber returned to prison for two years after being charged with battery for kicking his sister.

But while incarcerated, Huber began to turn his life around. He earned his high school diploma and worked in the library, where he convinced the librarian to buy a collection of graphic novels for fellow inmates.

Released in November 2019, Huber struggled with finding work and housing. But little steps mattered: He obtained his driver’s license. He had a steady girlfriend. Interested in art and teaching, he wanted to pursue a career of teaching autistic children, and he even connected with a metal artist in nearby Waukesha who said he would train him in welding.

Hughes said living on his own and working with a new doctor gave Huber the freedom “to control his own health-care decisions” regarding his mental health. “He started to feel like a human being again.”

‘It’s just right for all his belongings to be returned to him’

This week, Rittenhouse attorney Mark Richards also filed a motion seeking Rittenhouse’s belongings seized upon his arrest, including the Smith & Wesson rifle used in the shootings, the 30-round capacity magazine and the rifle’s 22 bullets. Richards wrote that he previously asked the Kenosha District Attorney’s office to return the items but received no reply. He added that Rittenhouse “wishes to ensure that the firearm in question [will be] properly destroyed.”

Rittenhouse also wants his cellphone, clothing, baseball cap, cloth face mask and boots returned, among other items.

Rittenhouse spokesperson Dave Hancock told The Washington Post that Rittenhouse has no intentions for the weapon other than to destroy it. “It’s just right for all his belongings to be returned to him including the gun. He doesn’t want anyone to get money for it,” he said.

Settlements likely

No hearings have been set in the Eastern District of Milwaukee for the lawsuit. Aidala said it is likely that some of the municipalities named will settle with Huber’s parents before it reaches trial. However, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Hubers pursue a trial against Rittenhouse as “a form of closure.”

If they win, the court could claim future earnings Rittenhouse might make from a book deal and high-profile speaking engagements.

Hughes, who is not part of the lawsuit, said that should Huber’s parents receive money, it should be used to fund mental health services within Kenosha or for services “to help ease formerly incarcerated people back into society.”

Rittenhouse, she said, “didn’t go away quietly and pursue his dreams of nursing like he said he was going to do. He went to Mar-a-Lago. He went on Tucker Carlson.”

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