Kyle Rittenhouse’s attorneys say wasn’t just a scared teenager acting in self-defense when he shot to death two Kenosha, Wi., protesters. He was a courageous defender of liberty, a patriot exercising his right to bear arms amid rioting in the streets. “A 17-year-old citizen is being sacrificed by politicians, but it’s not Kyle Rittenhouse they are after. Their end game is to strip away the constitutional right of all citizens to defend our communities,” says the voice-over in a video released this week by a group tied to Rittenhouse’s legal team, the Associated Press reports. “Kyle Rittenhouse will go down in American history alongside that brave unknown patriot … who fired ‘The Shot Heard Round the World,”’ said his lead attorney John Pierce. Such dramatic rhetoric that has helped raise nearly $2 million for Rittenhouse’s defense may not work with a jury.
Legal experts say there could be big risks in turning a fairly straightforward self-defense case into a fight for freedom that mirrors the law-and-order reelection theme President Donald Trump has struck amid a wave of protests over racial injustice. “They’re playing to his most negative characteristics and stereotypes, what his critics want to perceive him as — a crazy militia member out to cause harm and start a revolution,” said Robert Barnes, a Los Angeles defense attorney. Rittenhouse is scheduled to appear in court Friday in a hearing in Illinois on whether to return him to Wisconsin. One politically charged tactic critics have attacked as a longshot is Pierce’s promise to fight a charge of underage firearm possession, a misdemeanor, by arguing U.S. law allows for an “unorganized militia.” Rittenhouse wielded a semi-automatic rifle. Some experts have questioned whether the teenager’s attorneys will hold back from making a plea bargain out of fear of disrupting the patriotic narrative and disappointing donors.