“The defendant’s continued association with members of a group that prides itself on violence, and the use of their symbols, raises the significant possibility of future harm.”
Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teen who killed two people and shot another at an August protest in Kenosha, flashed the “OK” hand sign co-opted by white supremacists as he posed for photos with members of the far-right Proud Boys earlier this month at a bar in Mount Pleasant, according to court documents filed Wednesday by prosecutors.
Rittenhouse’s alarming antics led Kenosha County prosecutors to ask a judge on Wednesday to forbid the 18-year-old killer, who is out of jail on bond after pleading not-guilty to murder charges earlier this month, from having further contact with white supremacists and members of the Proud Boys, publicly displaying hate symbols, or drinking alcohol. The Kenosha News first reported on the filing.
“The defendant’s continued association with members of a group that prides itself on violence, and the use of their symbols, raises the significant possibility of future harm,” Assistant District Attorney Jason Zapf wrote in the filing. “Further, this association may serve to intimidate potential witnesses, who may be unwilling to testify in this case because they may fear that the defendant’s associates [will] harm them or their families.”
In security-camera images filed in court, Rittenhouse, wearing a shirt that reads “Free as F–k,” is seen holding up the “OK” sign as he poses for multiple photos. Within minutes of Rittenhouse walking into the bar, prosecutors say members of the Proud Boys sang him “Proud of Your Boy,” a song originally written for the animated film “Aladdin” that has since been used as the Proud Boys’ theme song.
“The defendant then remained with these ‘Proud Boys’ for the entire [90 minutes] he was in the bar,” Zapf wrote.
Rittenhouse’s attorneys have long denied the self-proclaimed militia member has any connection with white supremacists. In October, Rittenhouse attorney Lin Wood said the teen would sue President-elect Joe Biden for defamation after Biden’s campaign included a photo of Rittenhouse in an ad that criticized outgoing President Donald Trump for refusing to condemn white supremacist groups during a presidential debate. (Wood has gone on to advocate for the execution of Vice President Mike Pence.)
Rittenhouse’s criminal defense attorney, Mark Richards of Racine, claimed in a Thursday filing that “Mr. Rittenhouse is not currently and has not ever been a member of any of the organizations the State lists in its motion.”
“[T]he defense has no objection to a bond modification prohibiting Kyle Rittenhouse from having any knowing contact with any known hate groups or their members,” Richards wrote.
Richards also asserted the motion was “a not-so-thinly veiled attempt to interject the issue of race
into a case that is about a person’s right to self-defense.” Rittenhouse’s legal defense hinges on his claim that the shootings were in self-defense.
Richards also said he does not object to Rittenhouse being prohibited from drinking alcohol, which is a common bond condition for people accused of crimes. Rittenhouse drank three beers while at the bar, prosecutors said; doing so is legal under state law because he was with a parent.