Right-wing me­dia and le­gal fig­ures are em­brac­ing case of 17-year-old from An­ti­och ac­cused of killing 2 in Kenosha

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - lsweet@sun­ LYNN SWEET D.C. DE­CODER | @lynnsweet

Rad­i­cal right me­dia and le­gal fig­ures are em­brac­ing and de­fend­ing Kyle Rit­ten­house, the An­ti­och teen charged with a dou­ble mur­der in Kenosha, Wis­con­sin, who is now in cus­tody in a Ver­non Hills ju­ve­nile de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity.

In­flu­en­tial com­men­ta­tors with mass fol­low­ings, Ann Coul­ter, Michelle Malkin and Tucker Carl­son, have all spo­ken out in sup­port of Rit­ten­house, who is ac­cused of tak­ing mat­ters into his own hands as a sort of cit­i­zen sol­dier when he al­legedly shot three peo­ple protest­ing the po­lice shoot­ing of 29-year-old Ja­cob Blake, killing two of them.

“I would de­scribe him as a Minute Man,” one of Rit­ten­house’s lawyers, John Pierce, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Sun­day, a ref­er­ence to the mili­tia best known for fight­ing dur­ing the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion. Pierce is also lead­ing a Rit­ten­house de­fense fundrais­ing drive through a newly formed foun­da­tion.

Pierce also told the Sun-Times he will wage a le­gal bat­tle to pre­vent Rit­ten­house’s ex­tra­di­tion to Wis­con­sin from Illi­nois. The next step is a Sept. 25 hear­ing be­fore a Lake County judge.

“We are con­sid­er­ing our op­tions, but at this time, we do not in­tend to waive ex­tra­di­tion from Illi­nois to Wis­con­sin,” said Pierce.

A “se­ri­ous con­cern” is that in Wis­con­sin, Rit­ten­house would be con­sid­ered an adult, and lock­ing him up among adults would be “too dan­ger­ous for him. At this time we be­lieve Illi­nois has a pub­lic pol­icy in­ter­est in pro­tect­ing its chil­dren,” Pierce said. Pierce fore­sees a costly le­gal bat­tle.

“If this case goes through trial and ap­peal, it will be mil­lions of dol­lars for sure,” Pierce said.

Speak­ing from north sub­ur­ban Ver­non Hills, Pierce, based in Los An­ge­les, said he is booked to ap­pear on Tucker Carl­son’s Fox News show on Mon­day night to discuss the Rit­ten­house case.

He may be able to see the youth at the Lake County fa­cil­ity ear­lier Mon­day.

The pol­i­tics be­hind the case

The Rit­ten­house episode has added an­other com­plex — and highly po­lit­i­cal — di­men­sion to the volatile events un­fold­ing in Kenosha, com­ing as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is step­ping up his “law and or­der” mes­sag­ing to vot­ers and ac­cus­ing Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den of be­ing the cap­tive of a rad­i­cal left.

Trump is poised to travel to the cru­cial swing state Tues­day to meet with lo­cal law en­force­ment and in­spect dam­age in Kenosha.

On Mon­day in Pitts­burgh, Penn­syl­va­nia, Bi­den will de­liver a speech ask­ing, “Are you safe in Don­ald Trump’s Amer­ica?” to re­mind vot­ers the up­heaval in cities and vi­o­lence is com­ing on Trump’s watch.

The Kenosha protests were sparked after a white po­lice of­fi­cer shot the Evanston­raised Blake, who is Black, at least seven times in the back on Aug. 23 as he was get­ting into a car where three of his young chil­dren were in a back seat.

Rit­ten­house, 17, who is white, showed up at a Kenosha protest on Aug. 25 sling­ing a Smith and Wes­son AR-15 style ri­fle. After he al­legedly shot two peo­ple to death and wounded an­other, a photo showed how Kenosha po­lice ig­nored him as he walked down a street with his hands up. He later sur­ren­dered to the An­ti­och po­lice.

That po­lice over­looked Rit­ten­house seems a vivid ex­am­ple of real-time white priv­i­lege.

Pierce said Rit­ten­house acted in self-de­fense. He said Rit­ten­house did not trans­port the ri­fle from Illi­nois to Wis­con­sin but de­clined to com­ment on specifics re­gard­ing per­mits. Wis­con­sin al­lows loaded weapons to be openly car­ried.

Ma­chine springs to life

Given the tur­moil in Port­land, Chicago and other cities, ac­tivists on the right quickly took up Rit­ten­house’s case as a cause big­ger than the mur­ders he is ac­cused of.

A Rit­ten­house le­gal de­fense, fundrais­ing and me­dia ma­chine sprang to life.

Pierce will be a Rit­ten­house lead lawyer along with Lin Wood, who, like Pierce, takes on high-pro­file con­ser­va­tive cases.

On Aug. 12, Pierce and Wood filed pa­pers with the Texas sec­re­tary of state cre­at­ing the Fight­Back Foun­da­tion Inc.

“For too long, the fake news me­dia have lied and at­tacked con­ser­va­tives with­out ac­count­abil­ity. That’s where we come in. We bring law­suits to check the lies of the left,” the foun­da­tion said on its web­site.

Wood was on the le­gal team rep­re­sent­ing Ni­cholas Sand­mann, the high school stu­dent who sued sev­eral news out­lets over re­port­ing about him. Last week, Sand­mann as­sailed the me­dia in a Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion speech.

Pierce’s firm has rep­re­sented Rudy Gi­u­liani and for­mer Trump cam­paign ad­viser Carter Page.

Coul­ter in a tweet said she wanted Rit­ten­house as “my pres­i­dent.” Carl­son on his show said, “How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with ri­fles de­cided they had to main­tain or­der when no one else would?”

Malkin, a self-de­scribed “vo­cal” ad­vo­cate for Rit­ten­house, summed up the rad­i­cal right frame when she said in a Satur­day tweet, “ALL THE BEST PEO­PLE #StandWithK­yle. It’s now or never . . . and, yes, it’s war.”


Ben­jamin Crump, the lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the Blake fam­ily, also rep­re­sents the fam­i­lies of the mur­dered Bre­onna Tay­lor and Ge­orge Floyd.

Sports is the same thing hap­pen­ing over and over. Teams meet, agi­tate a ball, which is thrown and caught. Tossed through a hoop or hit with a bat. Some­times kicked. There’s also hockey.

I am not in­sult­ing sports fans, mind you. I un­der­stand that for them, sports is the hub on which the uni­verse spins. It just isn’t my ta­ble. The night the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, I at­tended a lec­ture at the Field Mu­seum on tat­too­ing in Poly­ne­sia. I was not alone.

Sports is the same thing hap­pen­ing over and over.

To me. Gen­er­ally. But not al­ways. Oc­ca­sion­ally, some­thing note­wor­thy hap­pens. Some­thing will tran­spire in the world of sports so seis­mic that even I per­ceive it, like a deaf per­son sens­ing the orches­tra by vi­bra­tions through the floor.

Last Wed­nes­day, the Mil­wau­kee Bucks an­nounced they wouldn’t play their first round play­off game against the Magic. Not with Kenosha roiled nightly with un­rest over the shoot­ing of Ja­cob Blake.

The NBA didn’t count the game as a for­feit but picked up the series three days later. The rest of the NBA, even some base­ball teams joined in. Now they’re talk­ing about us­ing basketball are­nas as polling places. That seems sig­nif­i­cant.

The Right erupted in an­guish. “LeBron is just try­ing to out­woke the rest of the NBA. Clear ne­go­ti­a­tion ploy,” said Fox Sports Ra­dio’s Clay Travis. Mil­i­tary dis­plays are fine; that isn’t pol­i­tics, that’s pa­tri­o­tism.

But should those who ac­tu­ally play the game try to use their con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence to help oth­ers, they’re told to shut up and stay out of pol­i­tics.

Sports is al­ways po­lit­i­cal. Even when Black ath­letes couldn’t play, it was po­lit­i­cal. Whites just didn’t know it. The ex­clu­sion of mi­nori­ties was not eth­i­cal, cer­tainly not ath­letic. It was po­lit­i­cal. Chang­ing that was po­lit­i­cal, too, and started long be­fore Jackie Robin­son. In 1910, heavy­weight box­ing cham­pion Jack John­son faced Jim Jef­fries, “The Great White Hope.”

The New York Times saw what was at stake: “If the black man wins, thou­sands and thou­sands of his ig­no­rant broth­ers will mis­in­ter­pret his vic­tory as jus­ti­fy­ing claims to much more than mere phys­i­cal equal­ity with their white neigh­bors,” it ed­i­to­ri­al­ized. Po­lit­i­cal.

John­son did win, and vi­o­lent white back­lash rip­pled across the coun­try. Po­lit­i­cal. Then as now, vi­o­lence was wrong when Black peo­ple did it, but by white peo­ple, it was jus­tice. The film of the fight was banned. For­mer Pres­i­dent Teddy Roo­sevelt, a box­ing fan, urged the pub­lic to “guar­an­tee that this is the last prize fight to take place in the United States.” What good is a sport a Black man can win? They didn’t call it can­cel cul­ture then. Po­lit­i­cal.

The three top heavy­weight box­ers of the 20th cen­tury — all with strong Chicago ties — are a quick course on how sports forced white racial at­ti­tudes to change. John­son was un­apolo­getic and hated. Sent to prison for dat­ing white women, he was hung in ef­figy at State and Wal­ton in 1912.

After John­son lost to Jess Wil­lard in 1915, an­other Black man wasn’t per­mit­ted a shot at the ti­tle for 22 years, for fear of cre­at­ing an­other Jack John­son. Po­lit­i­cal. Joe Louis’ man­ager fi­na­gled his cham­pi­onship fight at Comiskey Park in 1937 by mak­ing sure Louis main­tained a mod­est, low-key de­meanor — he was apolo­getic and loved, or at least ac­cepted.

The third cham­pion was Muham­mad Ali — un­apolo­getic and loved, though not when he re­fused the draft in 1966. Stripped of his ti­tle, vil­i­fied. His Chicago bout can­celed. Po­lit­i­cal.

Amer­ica caught up to Ali, the way it’s catch­ing up to Colin Kaeper­nick. He be­came a model of coura­geous re­fusal, a tem­plate for what is hap­pen­ing now. Ali is the rea­son the su­perla­tive rep­u­ta­tion of Michael Jor­dan, for all his com­pet­i­tive­ness and ath­leti­cism, cur­dled over time. He didn’t want to jeop­ar­dize shoe sales.

Sports of­ten leads. Ma­jor league base­ball in­te­grated in 1947. Harry Tru­man ended racial dis­crim­i­na­tion in the Army in 1948. Those two events are not un­re­lated.

Ask your­self: Why did ev­ery NBA player go along with last week’s ac­tions, even though many of them never protested racial in­jus­tice in their lives? An­swer: Be­cause they’re team­mates. They’re on the same team and have to sup­port each other in or­der to win.

That’s a valu­able les­son at this chaotic, di­vided na­tional mo­ment. Maybe there’s more to this sports stuff than I thought.


A video frame al­legedly show­ing An­ti­och teen Kyle Rit­ten­house in Kenosha last week.


An image from video al­legedly show­ing the Kenosha shoot­ing in­ci­dent in­volv­ing An­ti­och teen Kyle Rit­ten­house.

Jack John­son

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