Why Kyle Rittenhouse no longer faces a gun possession charge

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KENOSHA, Wisconsin – The Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial judge on Monday dismissed the misdemeanor charge of possession of a firearm against the teenager after defense attorneys argued he failed had not violated the law of the state in question because of his age and the barrel length of his semi-automatic. gun.

Judge Bruce Schroeder’s ruling, released shortly before the closing statements, resolved a Byzantine legal debate over a Wisconsin law that began after Mr Rittenhouse was accused last year of shooting two men and injured a third during chaotic protests in Kenosha.

Mr Rittenhouse still faces five felony charges, including first degree intentional homicide, carrying a sentence of life imprisonment. The jury will begin to deliberate on Tuesday morning.

The defense has long argued that the gun possession charge was invalid, saying Wisconsin law did not prohibit Mr. Rittenhouse from carrying the military-style semi-automatic rifle on August 25, 2020. His argument This success was based in part on the fact that the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 he had strapped around his shoulder has a 16 inch long barrel.

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The misdemeanor charge of unlawfully possessing a dangerous weapon as a minor was the least serious Mr. Rittenhouse faced and carried a relatively short sentence. But the jurors might have settled the charge, said Steven Wright, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, if they balked at the more serious charges but wanted to convict Mr Rittenhouse of something. .

“A jury, perhaps inclined to compromise, will not have the gun charge as an option,” Wright wrote in an email.

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Michael O’Hear, a law professor at Marquette University Law School, wrote in an email that the dismissal of the gun possession charge could make the jury believe the charge had generally exceeded the limits of his charges.

Judge Schroeder told jurors on Monday they might consider less serious charges than those Mr Rittenhouse has faced all along. For example, jurors might choose to convict him of intentional second degree homicide instead of the higher charge of intentional first degree homicide.

It is legal for adults to openly carry firearms in Wisconsin, but state law prohibits minors from owning firearms except in limited circumstances.

Prosecutors argued that it was clear that Mr Rittenhouse’s possession of the gun was illegal and that the jury should be asked to rule on the charge. Defense lawyers argued that the law prohibiting “possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under the age of 18” did not apply in this case.

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The law says it applies to minors carrying a rifle or shotgun only if they are not in compliance with at least one additional law. These include the regulation of “hunting and the use of firearms by persons under the age of 16” and the prohibition of rifles with barrels less than 16 inches in length.

Mr Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shooting. The judge dismissed the charge after no one in court challenged the gun’s barrel length.

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