CHICAGO (CBS) — A Wisconsin judge on Thursday denied a request to increase bail for Kyle Rittenhouse, after prosecutors accused him of failing to notify the court of his new address while he awaits trial for shooting three people, killing two of them, during protests in Kenosha last summer.
Kenosha County Judge Bruce Schroeder denied prosecutors’ requests to increase Rittenhouse’s bail and issue an arrest warrant until he can post the higher bond. However, the judge ordered Rittenhouse’s attorney to inform the court clerk of his new home address, which will be shared with the Kenosha County Sheriff’s office, but otherwise be kept secret, even from prosecutors.
Kenosha County District Attorney Thomas Binger objected to being kept in the dark about Rittenhouse’s new address.
“Our obligation is to help monitor the defendant’s bond conditions, and without knowing where he’s at, that becomes very difficult,” Binger said.
However, Schroeder declined to share the information with prosecutors, saying it’s not that he doesn’t trust them, but he wants to prevent any further harm to the community.
“That has nothing to do with you or your office. I think the sheriff would be your right arm, left arm, whichever is preferred, in discharging anything that would need to be done, and they’re not to share it with you unless you offer good reason,” he said.
Prosecutors last week filed a motion seeking an arrest warrant for Rittenhouse, and to add $200,000 to his existing $2 million bail, saying he failed to tell the court when his home address changed late last year.
Rittenhouse’s defense attorney has said his client is at a “safe house” now because of numerous and repeated threats. Defense attorney Mark Richards said he will provide the court with that address by the end of the day on Thursday.
Rittenhouse is accused of shooting three people – killing two – during the unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin over the summer following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police there.
In the motion filed last week, prosecutors noted that an address on Anita Terrace in Antioch, Illinois was listed for Rittenhouse when he signed a document in November upon being released on $2 million bond.
The November bond document ordered Rittenhouse to notify the court within 48 hours of a change in his address or phone number, the motion said.
But the Kenosha County Circuit Court Clerk mailed a notice to Rittenhouse at the Anita Terrace address on Dec. 20, and it was returned as unclaimed on Jan. 28, prosecutors said. The U.S. Postal Service indicated that the delivery of the notice was “attempted, not known” and that they were “unable to forward” prosecutors said.
On Feb. 2, Kenosha police detectives went to the Antioch address and found another man living there. He said he had been living there since Dec. 14 and had signed a lease on Dec. 15 – and produced a utility bill proving his residence while saying Rittenhouse no longer lived there, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors asked Rittenhouse’s bond to be increased by $200,000 and asked to have a warrant issued for his arrest.
Binger said Rittenhouse was lucky that his case gained national attention, and that donors came forward to post his bail for him; but Binger said that also means Rittenhouse has no financial incentive to comply with the terms of his bond.
“From the defendant’s perspective, what incentive does he have to comply with the bond? What incentive does he have to ensure that the non-monetary conditions are met here, and there’s a very small incentive there for him to do that,” he said.
Binger said, if Rittenhouse’s defense attorneys wanted to keep the address of the “safe house” where the defendant is staying, they should have filed a motion with the court to keep that location confidential.
“What they’ve done is gone ahead and done it unilaterally, without any court authorization, without any notice to anyone here. They’ve acted independently, and frankly this is the latest in a long line of incidents where I think the defendant is essentially thumbing his nose at the court’s requirements here,” he said.
Binger specifically pointed to an incident on Jan. 5, when Rittenhouse was spotted at Pudgy’s Pub in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, on the same day he pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
Still images from that day show Rittenhouse first posing for photos outside the bar with two adult men who arrived with him, according to court filings. In each, Rittenhouse and one of the men flash the “OK” sign. Other screen grabs show Rittenhouse posing for several photographs in a T-shirt which reads, “Free as F**k,” and again flashing the “OK” sign with the adults in the bar, the filing said.
The “OK” sign, prosecutors noted, has been co-opted as a white power gesture by “known white supremacist groups.”
In court filings, prosecutors also said five men who accompanied Rittenhouse to the bar “loudly serenaded” him with the song, “Proud of Your Boy,” as Rittenhouse stood next to them.
“Proud of Your Boy” a song written for the 1992 Disney film “Aladdin,” but not used until a 2011 stage adaptation, and is the source of the name of the far-right group self-described “western chauvinist” group the Proud Boys. Prosecutors said the song sung by members of the Proud Boys “as an anthem and for self-identification.”
The incidents documented that day led a judge to modify Rittenhouse’s bond so as to require that he “shall not knowingly have conduct with any person or group of persons known to harm, threaten, harass or menace others on the basis of their race, beliefs on the subject of religion, color, national origin, or gender.”
Binger said “it’s very alarming,” for a defendant facing such serious charges to go to a bar and drink, wear a T-shirt with profane message, flash white supremacist signs, and then move away from his address, and refuse to disclose his whereabouts.
However, Richards said Rittenhouse has attended every required court date in his case, and prosecutors have known from the beginning of the case that he was not living at the Anita Terrace address in Antioch.
“He is not running. He has not hid,” Richards said. “My client will appear. He looks forward to litigating these offenses in your honor’s courtroom. We have nothing to fear. The truth will set my client free.”
Richards said he already has provided the court with a P.O. Box where any notifications can be sent, and has argued that making Rittenhouse’s home address would put his life in danger.
“All it takes is one crackpot and there’s a problem,” he said.
Schroeder ruled that he has no authority to issue an arrest warrant for Rittenhouse unless there is evidence he has committed a serious crime while free on bond. He also said it would be excessive to increase his bond for failing to notify the court of a change of address, especially when he’s attended every hearing in the case.
Rittenhouse is charged with shooting three men, killing two of them, during protests in Kenosha following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Prosecutors say Rittenhouse, who is white, left his home in Antioch, Illinois, and traveled to Kenosha after learning of a call to protect businesses after Blake, a Black man, was shot by police seven times in the back Aug. 23 and left paralyzed.
Rittenhouse opened fire with an assault-style rifle during protests two nights later, killing Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz. Rittenhouse and his attorneys have argued he fired in self-defense.
Conservatives have rallied around Rittenhouse, describing him as a patriot who took up arms to protect people and property, and raised enough money, with help from actor Ricky Schroder, to make his $2 million cash bail on Nov. 20.