(Reuters) – Kyle Rittenhouse, the U.S. teenager charged with fatally shooting two people during protests in Wisconsin last August, can remain free on bond and need not publicly disclose his whereabouts, a judge ruled on Thursday, denying prosecutors’ requests.
Prosecutors had accused Rittenhouse, 18, of violating his $2 million bond by not informing the court of his address. They had asked a Kenosha County, Wisconsin, judge to increase his bond by $200,000 and issue a warrant for his arrest.
Rittenhouse’s lawyers argued that safety concerns necessitated a move to a “safe house” and for him to conceal his whereabouts. As an example of received threats, they submitted an anonymous email warning that he would be raped in prison.
Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder told a hearing that concerns for Rittenhouse’s safety were legitimate and that he wanted to avoid the risk of further unrest in Kenosha, which erupted in violent protests in August following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man.
“After what this town has been through in the last six months I don’t want any more problems,” Schroeder said. “I’ve got two broken windows here, right here in this courtroom, the doors are all still covered with plywood, a good share of the community is still boarded up after millions of dollars of damage.”
Schroeder said that while Rittenhouse had failed to update his address in a timely fashion the criteria had not been met for his arrest. He told the teenager’s lawyer to disclose his address under seal to the court, and denied prosecutors’ request to hike his bail.
Rittenhouse had traveled on Aug. 25 from his home in nearby Antioch, Illinois, in a self-appointed role to protect businesses in Kenosha where the Blake shooting had sparked large protests against police brutality and racism.
He has been charged in Kenosha with first-degree homicide and five other criminal counts related to the shootings, in which Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber were killed and Gaige Grosskreutz was wounded.
Huber’s father, who attended the livestreamed hearing on Thursday, asked the judge to double the bond to $4 million and railed against Rittenhouse’s behavior since his release, citing videos showing him drinking at a bar on Jan. 5.
The Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office has said that Rittenhouse, his mother and others went to a pub in Wisconsin on Jan. 5 where photographic and video evidence showed he posed for a photo with two men flashing the “OK” sign, a gesture used as a symbol by white supremacist groups.
Prosecutors also said Rittenhouse was serenaded by men at the pub with “Proud of Your Boy,” a song associated with the far-right Proud Boys group. Five alleged members of the group have been accused by federal prosecutors of a criminal conspiracy in last month’s deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
“His mom and I lost our son and how would you feel if the killer of your son is just able to walk free and make videos and live it up,” John Huber said, before addressing Rittenhouse, who did not speak. “Justice is going to be served to you.”
Rittenhouse’s legal team has said their client, who is white, feared for his life when he fired his semi-automatic rifle, and have indicated they plan to argue self-defense.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Howard Goller and Daniel Wallis)