Judge in Kyle Rittenhouse case gives the go-ahead for defense to put victims on trial

On August 25, 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse shot three people on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Joseph Rosenbaum is definitely dead. Anthony Huber is definitely dead. Gaige Grosskreutz is still recovering from a severe wound. 

But none of these people are victims. At least, none of them can be called “victims” according to the judge for Rittenhouse’s upcoming trial.

As ABC News reported on Tuesday, Judge Bruce Schroeder made it clear that there were very distinct ground rules when the white 18-year-old goes on trial for crossing state lines, marching through the streets with a loaded weapon, and shooting three victims. And one of those rules is that Rittenhouse gets handled with kid gloves while his victims get slandered.

“The word ‘victim’ is a loaded, loaded word,” said Schroeder. “‘Alleged victim’ is a cousin to it.”

The prosecution can’t use the word victim, even with “alleged” tacked onto the front. But what words are then defense allowed to use when describing the three men that Rittenhouse left bleeding on the street when he strolled past police and drove back to his home in another state? 

According to Judge Schroeder, they can be called “looters.” Also “rioters” and “arsonists.” Even though none of the three victims of Rittenhouse’s shooting spree have been charged with any crime.

It isn’t clear why Schroeder suddenly decided that the word “victim” was too inflammatory to describe two men who had been literally gunned down in the street. What is clear is that nothing has been standard about the trial from the beginning.

When Rittenhouse moved out of the home where he was supposed to stay while on parole awaiting trial back in February, prosecutors approached Judge Schroeder with a request for an arrest warrant and an order to raise Rittenhouse’s bail. Schroeder denied both requests, saying that “Most people out on bond, we don’t know where they are.” That decision was one of several that led to protests calling for Schroeder to step down from the case. He didn’t.

At Tuesday’s hearing, in addition to ruling out the word “victim” and telling the defense that he “wasn’t going to stop them” when it came to describing those shot by Rittenhouse as looters, rioters, or arsonists in closing arguments, Schroeder also informed the defense that they would be allowed to bring in “use-of-force expert” John Black to testify that Rittenhouse had acted in self-defense. Black has already publicly stated that he believes Rittenhouse’s actions were “reasonably necessary.” None of that is, apparently, “loaded.”

Unlike Rittenhouse’s gun. Which very much was.

Assistant district attorney Thomas Binger was clearly frustrated by the rulings at Tuesday’s hearing. “The terms that I’m identifying here such as ‘rioter,’ ‘looter,’ and ‘arsonist’ are as loaded, if not more loaded, than the term ‘victim.’” But Schroeder was unmoved. 

In addition to allowing the defense to paint Rittenhouse’s victims as anything but victoms, and giving the defense their “expert,” Schroeder also ruled that the defense can show a video in which police officers are heard telling armed militia members they appreciate their presence. In the video, the police toss Rittenhouse a bottle of water. 

Instead of blocking the video, Schroeder seemed to argue that the police sanctioning Rittenhouse’s presence helped justify his actions. 

“If the jury is being told, if the defendant is walking down the sidewalk and doing what he claims he was hired to do and police say, ‘Good thing you’re here,’ is that something influencing the defendant and emboldening him in his behavior? That would be an argument for relevance.”

Earlier this week, Rittenhouse’s attorneys moved to have weapons charges dismissed because Rittenhouse was legally of age to hunt. Even Schroeder seems to have dismissed that idea.

On August 25, 2020, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse climbed into his car and drove from his home in Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin. He carried with him an AR-15 rifle which the then under-age Rittenhouse had obtained illegally. 

This was just two days after the shooting of Black man Jacob Blake by Kenosha police. Blake was unarmed when a white Kenosha police officer shot him seven times, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. 

Rittenhouse, who is white, said he had come to “patrol” the streets as part of a militia group calling itself “the Kenosha guard.” That group had been formed a few weeks earlier under claims that they were “protecting” businesses from Black Lives Matter protesters who marched in Kenosha following the police murder of George Floyd.  

Strolling down the street with his rifle slung over his arm, Rittenhouse confronted protesters who tried to pull the gun away. Rittenhouse shot Rosenbaum, ran a short distance and fell, then shot Huber, and finally shot Grosskreutz through the arm. 

On the night of the murders, Rittenhouse walked past officers, gun still in hand. Rather than stop him, the police proceeded toward the protesters. 

Following the shooting, Tucker Carlson championed Rittenhouse. 

As for Jacob Blake, Kenosha County prosecutors announced in January that officers involved in Blake’s shooting would not be charged. However, Blake, who now uses a wheelchair as a result of his injuries, was sent to jail for two years for “prior charges of disorderly conflict.” 

Rittenhouse’s trial is expected to begin on Nov. 1.

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QAnon congresswoman calls Jan. 6 ‘just a riot’ then uses Declaration of Independence to defend it

Obnoxious QAnon apologist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was fined a third time Monday for refusing to don a mask on the House floor. Like the Karen that she is, the Republican says she’s “taking a stand on the House floor because I don’t want the people to stand alone.” 

But masks be damned, the fanatic of Jewish space lasers is in a battle to figure out which side of the cult she’s really on. 

Talking out of both sides of her mouth, as usual, Greene took to Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast Tuesday to dismiss the insurrection that took place on Jan 6. as “just a riot.” 

She went on to defend the actual insurrection where Trump bootlickers stormed the U.S. Capitol, attempted to stop democracy, and left five people dead and dozens injured by comparing it to something altogether different and citing the Declaration of Independence.

“If you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants,” QAnon Karen blurts out about the famed riot. “There is a clear difference between Jan. 6 and the Marxist Communist revolution the antifa, BLM, Democrat ground troops waged on the American people in 2020.”

.@mtgreenee “Jan. 6 was just a riot…and if you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants.” pic.twitter.com/zXcPjDDC1n

— The Republican Accountability Project (@AccountableGOP) October 26, 2021

Greene and her team have never condemned the insurrection. In fact, Green appears to believe that violence is the only way to get what you want. “You can’t allow it to just transfer power peacefully like Joe Biden wants, and allow him to become our president,” Greene said before being sworn into office. 

Of course, Greene can easily call the insurrection “just a riot.” She should know: She helped plan it. 

In exclusive reporting from Rolling Stone, a bombshell article alleges that Greene, along with a number of other GOP representatives and staff, all had a hand in planning “Stop the Steal” and “March for Trump” rallies that led to the Jan. 6 riot. The report, compiled with unnamed sources, claimed that “members of Congress” were in touch with several people involved with the aforementioned events that took place between the election and Jan. 6. 

In December, the newly elected congresswoman spoke openly on camera about her objections to Joe Biden’s presidential win and how Trump and his brown-nosing followers were planning to overturn the process.

“Just finished with our meetings here at the White House this afternoon, we had a great planning session for our Jan. 6 objection,” Greene says in the video, according to Salon, which she then tweeted out on Dec. 21. “We aren’t going to let this election be stolen by Joe Biden and the Democrats. President Trump won by a landslide. Call your House reps, call your senators from your states. We’ve got to make sure they’re on board. We’ve already got a lot of people engaged. Okay, stay tuned.”

.@realdonaldtrump deserves his day in court, AND we are definitely going to give him his day in Congress. We have a rapidly growing group of House Members and Senators. Jan 6 challenge is on. 🇺🇸 Call your Rep: 202-225-3121 Call your Senators: 202-224-3121#FightForTrump! pic.twitter.com/O9YvytKlrS

— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) December 21, 2020

We will stay tuned because even though Greene may forget, we won’t. And everything she says can and will be used against her in the expected grand jury. 

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Just two border agents were fired for their participation in racist Facebook group, House probe says

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2020 that it had learned that just four Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents were fired for their participation in a secret Facebook group where posters shared violent, racist, and just plain vile content, including a post mocking an unaccompanied child who died alone while in U.S. custody. 

But according to a report released this week by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, even fewer agents than initially reported by the LA Times actually faced serious consequences for their deplorable actions. The House’s investigation found that of the dozens of agents found to have “engaged in misconduct” related to the Facebook group, only two were fired.

“Documents and information obtained by the committee show that CBP determined that 60 Border Patrol agents engaged in misconduct related to secret Facebook groups during the Trump administration, and were subject to discipline,” a statement said. “However, CBP significantly reduced the punishments imposed on most of these agents.” 

That included punishment for one of the agents who posted “obscene and lewd images” in the “I’m 10-15” Facebook group, “which included an explicit graphic and comments” about a member of Congress, the committee’s report said. “The agent posted a picture of a fence containing a hole with a penis and the face of a member of Congress superimposed into the picture. The image had the text, ‘Lucky Illegal Immigrant Glory Hole Special Starring [Name of Member of Congress.]’”

While not named in the report, this member of Congress is almost certainly Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She had been named as of target of the group in ProPublica’s July 2019 report, and was among the Hispanic Caucus legislators who toured a number of Texas border facilities at the time. But the House committee’s report said that while CBP’s Discipline Review Board recommended the agent’s removal, the Border Patrol union (which has ties to white supremacist rag Breitbart) invoked arbitration. The agent not only came back to work, but was awarded back pay for their 60-day suspension.

The report said that despite the Discipline Review Board finding that the 60 agents had “committed misconduct by violating CBP’s Standards of Conduct … CBP reduced proposed disciplinary measures for almost all of these agents, who continue to work with migrants.” In addition to the two firings, 43 were suspended without pay, 12 received letters of reprimand (ooh, scary), and three received “alternate disciplinary actions, such as suspension with pay.” The report said 10 agents retired “before formal disciplinary action was taken.”

One of those agents, identified only as “Border Patrol Agent #9,” posted “among the most explicit and offensive graphics and comments on ‘I’m 10-15,’ including posting a widely circulated picture of a migrant father and son who drowned and referring to them as ‘floaters.’” The Discipline Review Board had recommended this agent’s firing, but the agent filed for—and was approved—for disability retirement before action could be taken. “Disability retirement entitles Border Patrol Agent #9 to a disability annuity, Social Security benefits, and other payments from qualified federal retirement plans,” the report said. This agent had already faced previous “infractions,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the committee report said that dozens “found to have committed misconduct” continue to “work in positions of power over migrants, including families with children.”

“After completing the disciplinary processes, these agents returned to their previous duties working face-to-face with migrant populations at the border, in detention, and throughout inspection and processing,” the report continued. “According to CBP, Border Patrol agents are responsible for ‘[g]uarding our country from illegal activity while providing aid to those in need. It’s mentally and physically challenging and every day requires both courage and compassion.’”

Right. Let’s ask Haitian families recently abused by agents at the southern border if they were treated with courage and compassion. These families said in a civil rights complaint recently filed with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties that they were denied access to basics including water, food, and blankets while detained under a bridge. In detention, the complaint says individuals were then deprived of medical attention, leading to at least one miscarriage. But “courage and compassion,” CBP claims.

In a statement, Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney said she was “deeply troubled by CBP’s broken disciplinary process,” adding that “CBP’s failure to prevent these violent and offensive statements by its own agents or impose adequate discipline creates a serious risk that this behavior will continue. As we saw with the mistreatment of migrants by Border Patrol agents in Del Rio, Texas last month, systemic behavior problems within CBP persist.” But Congressional Democrats have the power to do more than be “deeply troubled.” Cut the funding.

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Veteran prop master who turned down gig on ‘Rust’ says he saw ‘massive red flags’ from production

It began as a blur last Thursday, but as more information is revealed, the scene that’s now coming into focus is one where costs were cut and serious safety issues were overlooked. The accidental fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on Alec Baldwin’s Rust set now seems more like the result of a perfect storm of a long list of dangerous and unchecked problems. 

Hutchins, 42, a rising star in a field with few women and the mother of a 9-year-old son, was shot after star and producer Alec Baldwin discharged what was believed to be a prop gun on the set of his new film, Rust, filming in New Mexico. His director, Joel Souza, 48, was injured.

Let’s begin with the latest information first: According to an affidavit obtained by The Washington Post, Assistant Director (AD) Dave Halls, the man who handed the gun to Baldwin, was fired from the 2019 film Freedom’s Path after a crew member was injured when a gun misfired on the set. 

“Halls was removed from set immediately after the prop gun discharged,” a producer who declined to be identified by name told the Post. “Production did not resume filming until Dave was off-site. An incident report was taken and filed at that time.”

John Simmons, the first Black vice president to serve in the American Society of Cinematographers, told Daily Kos that a good AD fights for the safety of everyone on the set. 

“Sadly, from what I’ve learned, the guy [Hall] put the speed of the shooting schedule ahead of safety. He asked the armorer why they had to have the safety speech every time they used a weapon. His reputation is that he’s not known for safety, from what I’ve heard,” Simmons says. 

Hannah Gutierrez, 24, was the armorer on Rust. It was her job to make sure all of the guns were safe to handle. The affidavit states that Gutierrez left three prop guns on a cart outside the building. Halls grabbed one and handed it to Baldwin for rehearsal. He announced, “Cold gun,” while handing the gun to Baldwin, meaning it did not contain live rounds. 

“No crew member should be handling a weapon of any kind other than the armorer, designated prop person or actor. Full stop,” Jeremy Goldstein an Israeli military veteran and a Hollywood armorer told the Post. “The armorer must clear all firearms with the [first assistant director] when bringing them to set, and verify that they are unloaded. Then the armorer does the same with the actor, but the firearm does not leave the custody of the armorer or designated prop person.”

Serge Svetnoy, a gaffer who worked with Hutchins on Rust and held her after she was shot, blames the inexperience of Gutierrez and the producers for cutting costs. 

“Dear Producers, by hiring professionals, you are buying peace of mind for yourself and the people around you,” Svetnoy wrote on his Facebook page. “It is true that the professionals can cost a little more and sometimes can be a little bit more demanding, but it is worth it. No saved penny is worth the LIFE of the person!”

Prop Master Neal W. Zoromski told The Los Angeles Times he was offered the gig on Rust, but turned it down after getting a “bad feeling.” He added that there were “massive red flags” around the production. 

Zoromski says he felt the budget of the film—$7 million—was too small, and he wasn’t getting the answers he wanted around timeframe. He said that it takes weeks or months to hire a prop master, and they were talking to him just a couple of weeks before the shoot was scheduled to start. 

Additionally, Zoromski asked the producers for five technicians but was told it was a “low-budget” production and they would use props from a local prop house. He then asked for two technicians, one as an assistant and the other as an armorer, but Rust producers insisted one person could do the job of both. 

“You never have a prop assistant double as the armorer,” Zoromski told the Times. “Those are two really big jobs.”

Monday, TMZ reported that according to multiple sources involved with the Rust production, the gun had also been used by the crew for target practice—which would explain why there were real bullets versus blanks in the chamber of the gun.

“We’re told this off-the-clock shooting — which was allegedly happening away from the movie lot — was being done with real bullets … which is how some who worked on the film believe a live round found its way in one of the chambers that day,” TMZ reports.

Late Friday, the Times reported that in the hours leading up to the fatal shooting, several union camera crew workers walked off the Rust set.

The union crew had been struggling with labor issues for days, one of which was failed promises for money for hotel rooms closer to the set. As union members prepared to walk, a crew member on the set tells the Times, nonunion crew members appeared to replace them.

Additionally, there’d been two misfires earlier in the week with the prop gun that killed Hutchins. “There was a serious lack of safety meetings on this set,” a crew person told the Times.

“Whether we’re talking about Sarah Jones, a camera assistant who was killed on a set in Savannah, Georgia; a freak gun accident; or people working 18-hour days and falling asleep at the wheel, union or nonunion, safety should be everyone’s concern. It underscores that this is not a glamorous field, it’s one that is fraught with danger. I’m sure Alec Baldwin is beside himself,” Liz Goldsmith, a location scout in Chicago, Illinois, tells Daily Kos.

And of course, the Trump family wouldn’t be the utter asshats they are if they didn’t jump into the tragic death and narcissistically implant themselves. 

Donald “Please Someone Love Me Because My Daddy Never Will” Trump Jr. started selling T-shirts on his website that read, “Guns don’t kill people, Alec Baldwin kills people.” The Hill notes that the shirts sell for $27.99.

And to Junior, if you’re reading this—and we doubt you are because your ego is too fragile—take a listen to actor Michael Rappaport. We couldn’t agree more. 

Piss Stain @DonaldJTrumpJr is currently mocking the death of an innocent woman on the set of Alec Baldwin film. These are the lowest nastiest Pigs, the celebrations will ensue & your family will be alive to see it and I can’t wait.https://t.co/szMZblW0EL pic.twitter.com/tUSPN8pIxy

— MichaelRapaport (@MichaelRapaport) October 23, 2021

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As Trump continues to dominate GOP, Republicans insist 2022 is all about Biden

Donald Trump has already turned into a drag on the Republican Party’s midterm prospects, and GOP lawmakers know it.

That’s why Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who’s heading up the Senate GOP’s midterm efforts, really desperately wants to talk about anything but Trump.

Scott, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told a group of reporters that President Joe Biden is “our best asset right now.” Scott rooted his comments in an internal GOP poll of 1,200 suburban voters nationwide, putting Biden’s approval rating underwater and showing that a majority of them think the country is on the “wrong track.”

From a historical perspective, a president’s approval rating is usually predictive of how well their party does in midterm elections. As FiveThirtyEight.com wrote in March, “In the last four (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018), the incumbent president’s disapproval rating was higher than his approval, and in all four cases, the president’s party lost a sizable bloc of House seats. (The Senate results aren’t quite as tied to presidential approval.)”

One recent exception to that rule was in 2002, after the 9/11 attack, when a rally-around-the-flag mentality buoyed George W. Bush’s approval ratings, and Republicans netted eight seats in the House.

So Scott isn’t wrong to hope that Biden’s approvals remain underwater. That said, it’s entirely possible that Biden’s low approval ratings will recover, at least somewhat, particularly if Democrats manage to deliver both the bipartisan deal and his Build Back Better bill. (After notching a major early win with pandemic relief, Biden has been dogged for months by the delta variant, the Afghanistan withdrawal, and the inability of Democrats to push through his major agenda items.) 

But the truth is, we have no way to forecast Biden’s approval ratings a year from now—or even six months from now. And what Scott’s swagger entirely ignores is the corrosive effect Trump is already having on the GOP electorate and the candidates to whom Senate Republicans will be asking voters to entrust their futures.

Look no further than Georgia, where Trump has now cleared the field for violence-prone abuser Herschel Walker to be the GOP’s Senate nominee. This week, establishment Republicans officially began surrendering to Trump’s bizarro pick for the critical race when Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-highest-ranking Republican in the Senate, threw his support behind Walker.

So sure, we can look at approval ratings. But there’s simply no historic measure for a party tethering itself to a twice-impeached defeated presidential incumbent who incited an attempted coup to maintain power indefinitely. And there’s no historic measure for a party empowering that same mad man to handpick nearly every GOP candidate in all of the most hotly contested congressional races.

Scott bragged of the poll, “If I was a Democrat looking at this, it should scare the living daylights out of me.”

But when asked about Trump’s dominance in selecting GOP nominees, Politico reports, “Scott — without mentioning Trump directly by name — also insisted that endorsements aren’t that important by noting that he won the Florida GOP primary for governor in 2010 despite widespread opposition.”

Because according to Scott, the U.S. political landscape today hasn’t shifted one iota since 2010, when the Republican Party—by today’s standards—still seemed relatively sane and perhaps even interested (or maybe just resigned) to the notion of America remaining a democracy.

Republicans want to talk about President Biden right now for obvious reasons, but there’s no guarantee that his approval ratings will stay where they are.

What Republicans absolutely don’t want to talk about is Donald Trump and his conspiracy-driven obsession with the 2020 election results.

And while Biden’s future approval ratings are a mystery to us all, Trump’s preferred topic conversation is not: He will spend the rest of his days on this planet baselessly griping about the unfairness of the 2020 elections. And so long as he controls the GOP, that obsession will drive every election message and nearly every significant candidate selection regardless of what poll Rick Scott waves around in reporters’ faces.

Two words: Herschel Walker.  

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