Law enforcement experts are puzzled by a Wisconsin prosecutor’s request Wednesday for an arrest warrant and bond increase for murder suspect Kyle Rittenhouse, drawing additional scrutiny to his high-profile case.
In a bizarre turn Wednesday, it appeared that prosecutors didn’t know the whereabouts of Rittenhouse, 18, after attorneys failed to notify the court of the address of a “safe house” where he is alleged to be residing, raising questions about why Rittenhouse wasn’t being more closely monitored in the first place.
“I don’t understand why you wouldn’t tell the district attorney and the police the location of a murder defendant charged with first-degree murders,” said NBC News terrorism analyst Jim Cavanaugh, a retired special agent of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office alleged Wednesday that Rittenhouse violated the conditions of his bond by failing to notify the court of his changed address and asked the court to issue a warrant for his arrest and to increase his bond by $200,000. It also asked the court to order Rittenhouse to update his address immediately.
Rittenhouse was released from the Kenosha County Jail on a $2 million bond in November with donations made to his legal defense fund, largely from right-wing activists and conservative celebrities.
Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, alleged that police advised his previous attorney, John Pierce, not to provide the updated address.
“While completing paperwork related to Kyle’s release, Attorney Pierce was directly informed by a high-ranking member of the Kenosha Police Department not to provide the address of the Rittenhouse Safe House because of the numerous threats made against Kyle and his family,” Richards said in a response to the motion.
Counsel for Rittenhouse did not immediately respond to a request for comment by phone or email Thursday.
Kenosha police rebutted the claim Thursday, saying that while a police captain did speak with Pierce “regarding security concerns raised by Mr. Pierce, surrounding the Kyle Rittenhouse release from custody,” the captain didn’t provide “instructions about how to fill out paperwork.”
NBC News legal analyst Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor, said: “It’s beyond unusual to lie to a court about where a client is residing. It is no excuse to say that somebody else told me to lie about that. That adds insult to ethical injury.”
Rittenhouse’s attorney said Wednesday that attorneys contacted an assistant district attorney in November to discuss providing a new address if the prosecutors agreed to a sealed filing but that the district attorney’s office refused.
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Cavanaugh said that “it’s unusual to deal with a defendant in a safe house” and that he could understand why Rittenhouse’s defense wouldn’t want the address made public, saying it’s a reasonable request to ensure that Rittenhouse gets his day in court. Still, he said, authorities and prosecutors “have to know” where a murder defendant is, especially if he is receiving the threats alleged by Rittenhouse’s defense.
Kirschner said that when he was a prosecutor, his department kept the court apprised about where a defendant was, no matter what. A simple rule, he said, is: “Don’t lie to the court.”
“There are so many appropriate ways to take care of the circumstances in the Rittenhouse case that don’t involve telling the judge lies,” he said.