The jury has found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of murder of Joseph Rosenbaum based on the defense's claim that he acted in self defense. Given the facts outlined by this NPR article, it appears that the strongest evidence for such claim comes from the testimony that Rosenbaum tried to "grab" Rittenhouse's weapon.

Had Rosenbaum survived the shooting, would it be possible for him to be criminally charged with violating any laws? If so, which specific Wisconsin statues would he be likely in violation of?

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    Nit - not the "murder" of Rosenbaum. The "killing" of Rosenbaum. Murder is unlawful. Mr. Rittenhouse was justified in his response to Rosenbaum's attack.
    – acpilot
    Nov 23, 2021 at 22:20
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    @acpilot: The charge was "murder"; Rittenhouse being found not-guilty of the charge doesn't change the name of the charge.
    – Nat
    Nov 24, 2021 at 8:23
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    I don't think it matters to the Rittenhouse case exactly what laws Rosenbaum did or did not violate. It is upon the state to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Rittenhouse was not acting in self defence. While the details of their precise interaction are not recorded, Rosenbaum was in pursuit. That in itself is not a crime that I am aware of; but the totality of the documented evidence is strongly consistent with Rittenhouse's claim of self defence, in accordance with the verdict in the case. One need not first prove a crime is committed before acting in self defence, that I am aware of. Nov 24, 2021 at 10:57
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    @RobbieGoodwin: "Either Rosenbaum could have been criminally charged, or the whole Case falls apart" Not necessarily. Self defence accounts for what the defendant genuinely believed to be true at the time of the alleged self defense. Justifiable self defense does not necessitate an actual crime on the victim's part - as long as the defendant genuinely believed they were being threatened. I'm not stating whether this is part of Rittenhouse's defense, I'm responding to the broadsweeping statement you made that there must invariably have been a criminal offence by Rosenbaum.
    – Flater
    Nov 24, 2021 at 12:52
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    @Nat - that is true.
    – acpilot
    Nov 24, 2021 at 23:11

6 Answers 6


NPR left out things that don't fit their narrative.

According to testimony presented during the trial, from both Rittenhouse and Ryan Balch, Rosenbaum had told their group that “If I catch any of you fuckers alone, I’m going to fucking kill you.”

Given that Rosenbaum had "spent most of his adult life in prison starting at age 18 for sexual conduct with five preteen boys" (in the NPR article), was straight out of mental hospital and was (from both earlier video and other testimony) acting in a psychotic manner earlier in the evening, including using the N-word at black protesters, while ostensibly protesting racism, the jury believed that he was disturbed enough to have made such a threat.

Rittenhouse was running away from an older, bigger, and stronger man who had made an explicit threat to kill him in that exact scenario (alone), was chasing him in an apparent attempt to make good on his threat, did not stop chasing him even when Rittenhouse pointed an AR-15 at him and tried to run away some more, and only shot at literally the last second when Rosenbaum had caught up, had his hand on the gun and Rittenhouse could not run away any more.

The above is sufficient for self defense, but in terms of specific crimes: making death threats, assault and apparent attempted murder.

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    @Eugene - Nobody asked what the Keystone Kops were enforcing in Kenosha, just what laws were being broken.
    – Richard
    Nov 24, 2021 at 17:50
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    @Richard the cops matter a lot. The curfew violation (FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH AN EMERGENCY ORDER FROM STATE OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT) charge against Rittenhouse was dismissed for lack of evidence that it was a knowing violation(required), since the cops encouraged him and he thought he was allowed to do be there. In the circumstances, it would be impossible to enforce it against Rosenbaum either. That law is for cops to be able to enforce curfew. If the cops are not enforcing curfew, the law is void as a practical matter, short of posting "I'm breaking curfew!" on Facebook.
    – Eugene
    Nov 24, 2021 at 18:36
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    @Richard no, the prosecution pressed on with it, the judge dismissed it: abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/… - "The judge dismissed this charge during the trial, saying the prosecution didn't offer enough evidence to prove it". The judge was extremely upset at the prosecution on more than one occasion during the trial and was certainly not doing anything to prevent them from looking dumb.
    – Eugene
    Nov 24, 2021 at 19:38
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    @Richard lol I can't move our discussion from comments to chat, because you are apparently suspended from chatting, so let's not pollute comments too much further, but no, prosecutors do not just file charges that "make them look dumb"(your words). Like with the underage possession charge, I think they did not read the relevant statutes well enough, before filing charges, to realize they had no chance. Having charges dismissed mid-trial always hurts the prosecution's case.
    – Eugene
    Nov 24, 2021 at 21:25
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    @Ryan_L may very well be multiple. My point is that in the context of the question being asked is that if the curfew charge was dismissed for Rittenhouse, then it would have been for Rosenbaum as well.
    – Eugene
    Nov 25, 2021 at 7:43

Johnny Hurley shot and killed Ronald Troyke after Troyke had shot and killed Officer Gordon Beesley. Hurley was shot and killed by Officer Kraig Brownlow. Hurley has been declared a hero by various people, including Arvada‘s Mayor and District Attorney. Brownlow was not charged and will not be charged because he MISTAKENLY but honestly believed that his actions were necessary in order to save the lives of himself and others.

It is not necessary for anyone to have committed a crime for someone to act in self defense. Self defense requires someone to reasonably believe that a crime that will result in death or great bodily harm will be committed.

If Rosenbaum had stopped anytime before getting shot, he would most likely not have been charged with anything. Since he was shot when he caught up with Rittenhouse, if he had survived being shot, he could possibly have been charged with harassment (a misdemeanor), attempted battery, battery, aggravated battery or felony murder if battery and Huber had still died or Rittenhouse had been killed by any of his attackers.

Given the evidence, both Huber and Grosskreutz would have had a good case for self defense/defense of others if they had killed Rittenhouse (Huber better than Grosskreutz I believe, because unless it was someone else, Grosskreutz is on tape being told by Rittenhouse that Rittenhouse was going to the police, which might sway a jury).

  • I'm going to really feel foolish if I'm somehow wrong, but unless it's hiding really well from me, there's still no general criminal assault statute in Wisconsin law, so that's not an option.
    – D M
    Nov 23, 2021 at 4:45
  • @DM if you don't want to dedicate an answer to just mentioning this fact, would you feel more comfortable if I stipulated your comment in a post-edit to the question?
    – grovkin
    Nov 23, 2021 at 8:32
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    @DM As mentioned in other comments, Assualt is a common law crime, which means that there is no statute but that the crime exists because somewhere in the state's legal history, the courts ruled that assualt is a crime and it has been accepted under appeals. This isn't an uncommon phenomena in Common Law systems around the world. My home state, for example, has existed for almost 400 years and has yet to adopt a statutory definition of Murder because in that same time period, the courts have defined it to a point we didn't need a law. The only statutory murder laws are sentencing guidelines.
    – hszmv
    Nov 23, 2021 at 17:05
  • @hszmv "Common law crimes are abolished." - 939.10.
    – D M
    Nov 24, 2021 at 0:27
  • @DM Yes, but that says that common law rules are in effect if they don't conflict? Anyway, battery is still a thing and so presumably, attempted battery is too. Whether or not you call that assault. I'm aware definitions change from state to state. e.g. NY requires actual injury. Nov 24, 2021 at 4:29

No Criminal Inference

It is not possible to conclude that a crime was committed just because someone discharged a firearm in self-defense. We need look no further than Gaige Grossgkreutz. He claimed to be observing the protests as a legal observer for the ACLU. He heard shots fired and saw a commotion and ran over to Kyle Rittenhouse. He testified that he believed Kyle Rittenhouse was an active shooter (clearly a correct assessment after the fact). He tried to subdue Rittenhouse, in case Rittenhouse had, in fact, committed a criminal act, and to deter further criminal use of his long gun. To this end, he says he pointed his Glock at Rittenhouse (though he also says it was "unintentional"). What he didn't do is pull the trigger.

However, Kyle had already pointed his rifle at Gaige before he drew his handgun, and he testified that he thought he "was going to die". Therefore, if Gaige had pulled the trigger, then he would apparently have had the exact same defense as Kyle. He didn't, because:

“That’s not the kind of person that I am. That’s not why I was out there,” he said. “It’s not who I am. And definitely not somebody I would want to become.”

On the other hand, Gaige had every reason to believe that Kyle was going to shoot him, because he saw Kyle re-rack his rifle while it was pointed at him. Gaige would have had an open-and-shut self-defense case if he had fired first, given the outcome of Kyle's trial.

No Criminal Charges

Most importantly, it should be noted that up to this moment, Gaige Grosskreutz has not been charged with any crimes relating to the Kyle Rittenhouse slayings, despite Kyle shooting him "in self-defense". This should be the clearest evidence yet that the victim of a self-defense shooting need not be a criminal. In a very unusual outcome, it could have been the case that both Kyle and Gaige shot each other. If they had both survived, they could have both claimed self-defense. And presumably, they could both possibly win on their claims, proving that the "aggressor" in a self-defense case need not be engaging in criminal activity to justify a self-defense argument.

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    "clearly a correct assessment after the fact" He wasn't shooting anyone at that moment, and "active shooter" implies that that person is an aggressor. "Therefore, if Gaige had pulled the trigger, then he would apparently have had the exact same defense as Kyle." No, he wouldn't. His "defense" would be more similar to the McMichaels': A "citizen's arrest" on speculation, advancing towards someone while carrying a gun, and then using that person's response towards your aggression as a justification for killing them. Nov 23, 2021 at 2:13
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    It's too bad Grosskreutz likely won't be charged since the question of whether he was acting in self-defense is much more factually contested and interesting than Rittenhouse's. He testified that he saw Huber hitting Rittenhouse and even feared for Rittenhouse's safety, and a jury might find that Rittenhouse not shooting Grosskreutz when he had an easy shot would have made a reasonable person realize Rittenhouse was not a mass shooter. On the other hand the whole thing happened very fast so it could be found reasonable that Grosskreutz acted before his rational brain caught up. Nov 23, 2021 at 3:30
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    I specifically asked about Rosenbaum because it's conceivable that the others (shot by Rittenhouse) could have mis-read the situation after Rittenhouse discharged his weapon. I don't believe I suggested that a criminal inference could be made from the not-guilty finding itself. I only asked if the facts presented at the trial gave enough reason to suggest that Rosenbaum could have been charged had he survived. These facts would support, or not support, a charge against Rosenbaum regardless of Rittenhouse's verdict.
    – grovkin
    Nov 23, 2021 at 5:14
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    This reads like a defense of Gaige Grosskreutz's actions. It does not answer the question which was specifically about Rosenbaum.
    – Aubreal
    Nov 23, 2021 at 14:45
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    Regarding "He testified that he believed Kyle Rittenhouse was an active shooter (clearly a correct assessment after the fact).": Rittenhouse wasn't an "active shooter". An active-shooter is basically someone running around shooting random people; no-one's even accused Rittenhouse of doing such a thing.
    – Nat
    Nov 24, 2021 at 9:09

The attempt to "grab" the gun might have been charged as assault. Whether a prosecutor would have brought such a charge, and whether a jury would have convicted, is impossible to say. But the action seem to fit within the formal definition of assault.

Less likely, a charge of attempted theft might have been brought. But there seems no evidence that Rosenbaum intended to permanently deprive Rittenhouse of the gun, so that would be much more dubious, in my view.

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    I feel like you didn't actually look at Wisconsin law before posting this, since "assault" isn't listed as a crime.
    – D M
    Nov 23, 2021 at 4:23
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    @DM 947.013. Harassment is probably the same, depending on how keen the prosecution is. Heavily paraphrased: "a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose... The act is accompanied by a credible threat that places the victim in reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm." Saying that you're going to kill him, and then reaching for the gun probably constitutes a series of acts. Note: "however short". Nov 23, 2021 at 9:23
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    @DM If I am not mistaken "assault" is a common-law offense in Wisconsin. Nov 23, 2021 at 14:37
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    @DavidSiegel You are mistaken. Wisconsin (and most other states) abolished all common law crimes. WI Stat § 939.10
    – Michael W.
    Nov 23, 2021 at 22:30
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    @DM sorry, but it's a silly inconsequential point you keep making. It's like saying there's no law against murder in WI because instead they call it is called intentional homicide. Most states split up assault and battery, in WI they call both battery, it's just semantics, Tomato Tomahto
    – eps
    Nov 24, 2021 at 17:13

If A successfully argues self-defense in killing B, then the jury has agreed that B was acting in a way that made A reasonably fear for their life or great bodily harm; and by definition making someone fear in that way is, legally, Assault, which is a serious criminal charge ("felony" in the US). Of course depending on circumstances there could be additional or alternative charges such as battery (if any blows actually landed) or attempted murder (if such an intent could be proven). I'm not in a position to cite Wisconsin statutes, so my apologies on that count, but assault, battery and attempted murder, I think, are widely standardized. There might be local variations in how such charges can be combined, whether separate charges could be brought relating to successive interactions over the course of a prolonged conflict, and so forth. But by definition I think we can say that if A has killed B in legit self-defense, then B as at least committed Assault against A.

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    The jury has agreed that A had a reasonable perception of deadly or grievous bodily harm from B. The jury has not agreed that B did anything wrong. I think we can say that that at the very least B was unlucky (wrong place, wrong time - sitcoms are full of storylines like this, but they are more funny). We can not make any inference about B's criminality.
    – emory
    Nov 22, 2021 at 22:43
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    Acting in a fashion that makes another fear for their life is only assault if the actor either intended or should reasonably have expected that the action would create such fear. Self-defense may be justifiable in some cases where the apparent attacker wasn't deliberately trying to make the victim fear for his life, but acted in a manner that, based upon what the other person saw, could be reasonably misconstrued as posing a deadly threat.
    – supercat
    Nov 22, 2021 at 23:57
  • @supercat And further reason why it might not be illegal is that there's a lawful reason (that act itself was in self defense, or it was by a police officer in performance of their duties). Nov 23, 2021 at 2:15
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    @emory I'm glad this was articulated. A lot of people seem to think that a successful claim of self-defence is somehow some sort of inditement (either legal or casual) of the the other party. Nov 23, 2021 at 2:58
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    as a counter point to your opening statement, from @jmoreno's answer: "Johnny Hurley shot and killed Ronald Troyke after Troyke had shot and killed Officer Gordon Beesley. Hurley was shot and killed by Officer Kraig Brownlow. Hurley has been declared a hero by various people, including Arvada‘s Mayor and District Attorney. Brownlow was not charged and will not be charged because he MISTAKENLY but honestly believed that his actions were necessary in order to save the lives of himself and others."
    – Aubreal
    Nov 23, 2021 at 14:54

It was, at least in the broadest reading of the federal statute, terrorism, but I'm not aware of any Wisconsin terrorism statutes. It's common for theft of a firearm to be treated as more serious than theft in general. In Wisconsin, 943.20(3)(d)5 makes theft of a firearm a class D felony. There's also assault, and arson. You said "when he engaged Rittenhouse", and he wasn't engaging in arson at that moment, but it could be considered to be in furtherance of his previous arson (his purpose was to keep Rittenhouse from interfering with his arson). Given that Rittenhouse said he felt cornered, there's possibly false imprisonment argument to be made. If everything had played out the same except that Rosenbaum survived, there would also be a case to be made for felony murder, as there was a clear nexus between his actions and Huber's death.

However, I am not aware of any evidence that he violated any Wisconsin statues. :)

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    I feel like I'm spamming, but all these answers are making the claim that he could have been charged with assault, and there's no such statute in Wisconsin. Battery isn't quite the same thing.
    – D M
    Nov 23, 2021 at 4:47
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    @DM you might consider clarifying that in an answer of your own. It's perfectly reasonable for an answer to be "nothing." But even if there is a common misunderstanding that makes its way into other answers, if you can write a partial answers which clarifies that misunderstanding, then it would still be a useful partial answer.
    – grovkin
    Nov 23, 2021 at 5:18

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