Judge dismisses weapons charge at Rittenhouse murder trial

The judge at Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial has dismissed a count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.

The charge is only a misdemeanor, but it had appeared to be among the likeliest to net a conviction for prosecutors.

There’s no dispute that Rittenhouse was 17 when he carried an AR-style semi-automatic rifle on the streets of Kenosha in August 2020 and used it to kill two men and wound a third. But the defense argued that Wisconsin’s statute had an exception that could be read to clear Rittenhouse. That exception involves whether or not a rifle or shotgun is short-barreled.

Judge Bruce Schroeder had rejected the defense argument twice before, but had also said the statute was poorly written — and he threw it out just hours before the case went to the jury. Legal experts say prosecutors should have anticipated the move and done more to prove the count was valid.

Later, closing arguments began. Each side gets 2 1/2 hours to make their case to jurors before deliberations begin.

Rittenhouse has argued self-defense, saying he feared for his safety when he shot and killed two men and wounded a third with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle. Prosecutor Thomas Binger said Rittenhouse lost the right to self-defense because he created the danger.

The 18-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, faces a possible sentence of life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge of intentional homicide.