Rittenhouse judge dismisses underage weapons charge in murder trial

The judge presiding over Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial in Kenosha, Wis., on Monday dismissed one count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18. The misdemeanor charge, which carries a penalty of up to nine months in jail, was considered among the counts for which Rittenhouse was most likely to be convicted.

Rittenhouse was 17 years old when he carried an AR-style semiautomatic rifle on the streets of Kenosha during a turbulent protest against racial injustice in the summer of 2020, and used it to kill two people and injure another. Because Wisconsin law does not permit the sale of a firearm to anyone under the age of 18, Rittenhouse had paid an older friend to purchase the gun on his behalf.

Kyle Rittenhouse makes his way to his seat at the beginning of the day on Monday at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis.
Kyle Rittenhouse on Monday at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis. (Sean Krajacic-Pool/Getty Images)

Wisconsin law also generally prohibits minors from possessing guns. But while there is no dispute that Rittenhouse was underage when he went armed to the protest in Kenosha, defense attorneys argued that the teenager could be cleared of the charge under a hunting exemption related to the size of the rifle in question. On Monday, prosecutors urged Judge Bruce Schroeder to let the jury decide on the gun charge but ultimately conceded that Rittenhouse’s rifle was not short-barreled, prompting Schroeder to dismiss the charge.

The judge then brought the jury into the courtroom for a lengthy, and at times confusing, explanation of the remaining charges and the laws regarding self-defense. Rittenhouse, now 18, has pleaded not guilty to five felony counts for the shootings, including first-degree intentional homicide, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.