Rittenhouse Prosecutor Stood as Democrat in County Slammed for Suspect Postal Ballot
16:36 GMT 11.11.2021 (Updated: 13:26 GMT 06.08.2022)
Conservative commentators have already charged that the trial of teenager Kyle Rittenhouse for alleged murder during a riot following Black Lives Matter protests is a politically-motivated prosecution.
One of the prosecutors in the Rittenhouse murder trial formerly ran for election as a Democrat in a county now accused of vote-rigging in the 2020 US presidential election.
Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Thomas Binger has drawn fire for the often farcical bid to convict the teenager of first-degree murder and other offences, as well as his repeated flouting of the judge's rulings and exposure of his attempt at witness tampering.
But a reading of his resumé indicates a possible partisan motivation for his prosecution of the politically-charged case.
Binger unsuccessfully stood as the Democratic candidate for district attorney in neighbouring Racine County — between Kenosha and Milwaukee to the north — in 2016. He was appointed ADA in early 2019 by Kenosha District Attorney Michael D. Graveley, a fellow Democrat.
Last week, Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling recommended charges against five of the six Wisconsin Election Commission officials for their decision to send unsolicited mail-in ballots to all the state's nursing-home residents, leading to a complaint that staff fraudulently filled them in and posted them back.
Earlier, a Texas care worker was charged over a similar case of ballot fraud in November 2020.
The Rittenhouse case rapidly became political football during last year's presidential election campaign against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter protests accompanied by widespread rioting and other violence.
Murder or Self-Defence?
The 18-year-old defendant is accused of the fatal shootings of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and the attempted murder of Gaige Grosskreutz, all white men, on the night of 25 August 2020.
Rittenhouse and others had travelled to the Wisconsin city of Kenosha to defend businesses against rioters and looters amid Black Lives Matter protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, who was left paralysed.
The defendant testified on Wednesday that he became separated from his companions when he went to put out a fire at a car dealership lot, where he was confronted by one man armed with a gun before being chased by Rosenbaum, who tried to grab his rifle before he was fatally shot.
Rittenhouse was pursued down the street by other protesters, one of whom hit him over the head with a skateboard and also grabbed his rifle before the youth shot him dead.
Grosskreutz admitted pointing his own pistol, which he was carrying without a valid permit, at Rittenhouse before the teenager shot him through the arm.
28 October 2021, 16:54 GMT
Judge Bruce Schroeder reprimanded Binger three times on Wednesday as the prosecutor cross-examined Rittenhouse.
The first was for attempting to impugn Rittenhouse for exercising his Fifth Amendment right to silence after he turned himself in to police the day after the shooting. The second time was for trying to sneak in references to video evidence which Schroeder had already ruled inadmissible.
In the third instance, Binger repeatedly asked Rittenhouse the same question on the difference between different types of ammunition, until the judge intervened to correct the prosecutor on his attempt to introduce his own assertion that hollow-point bullets "explode" rather than merely expanding.
Those infractions prompted the defence counsel, led by Mark Richards, to ask Schroeder to declare a mistrial "with prejudice" — which would prevent Rittenhouse from being tried a second time.
But that was not Binger's first offence. Prosecution witness Nathan DeBruin, an amateur photographer, testified on Tuesday that the prosecutor had pressured him at a pre-trial meeting in September to alter his statement made in the wake of the shooting incident.
Binger asked DeBruin to add the names of several individuals since identified to his statement. When the witness refused on the grounds that he did not know who they were at the time, the prosecutor reportedly said: “We have no use for you”.
“We won’t put you on the stand, so Richards will be, and he’ll be harder on you than we would”.
Conservative commentators have already branded the trial a political persecution.