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Prosecutors will ask to add some lesser charges against Kyle Rittenhouse

Kyle Rittenhouse (center) enters the courtroom after a break at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Thursday. Rittenhouse is charged in the killings of two people and the wounding of a third during a racial justice protest in Kenosha, Wis., last year.
Kyle Rittenhouse (center) enters the courtroom after a break at the Kenosha County Courthouse on Thursday. Rittenhouse is charged in the killings of two people and the wounding of a third during a racial justice protest in Kenosha, Wis., last year.

Prosecutors indicated in court Thursday that they plan to submit additional charges in the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old who shot and killed two protesters last year at a chaotic demonstration in Wisconsin.

Rittenhouse currently faces six charges for his actions in Kenosha on the night of Aug. 25, 2020, when he was armed with an AR-15 rifle. He killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz.

His charges include three homicide-related charges: first-degree reckless homicide for killing Rosenbaum, first-degree intentional homicide for killing Huber and first-degree attempted intentional homicide for shooting Grosskreutz.

Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Now, prosecutors say they plan to ask the judge to allow the jury to consider lesser versions of at least two of those charges: those related to the shootings of Huber and Grosskreutz.

Lesser charges could include reckless homicide rather than intentional homicide, or second degree rather than first degree. Different charges have different requirements, some of which may fit better with the prosecution's case, legal experts said.

"I think the request for lesser included charges reflects an acknowledgment that their case might not be as strong with regard to the original charges and that at this point, they're willing to give up the prospect of life imprisonment for the defendant in exchange for obtaining convictions on something," Julius Kim, a Wisconsin-based defense attorney who is not involved in the case, told NPR.

The original six charges against Rittenhouse were filed just two days after the shootings in August 2020. A seventh charge for violating curfew was filed later by prosecutors and dismissed this week by the judge.

During the trial, prosecutors have struggled to overcome Rittenhouse's self-defense argument, especially in the shootings of Huber and Grosskreutz.

Both men ran after Rittenhouse as he was attempting to run toward police after shooting Rosenbaum. Multiple videos and photos show Huber striking Rittenhouse with a skateboard, and Grosskreutz testified that he believed Huber was trying to harm Rittenhouse.

Grosskreutz was himself armed with a loaded pistol. In testimony Monday, he acknowledged that his gun was pointed toward Rittenhouse at the moment he was shot, though he said he was not pointing it intentionally and did not intend to harm Rittenhouse.

"Certainly with the Huber and Grosskreutz shootings, there's really been almost no evidence presented by the state as to why that wasn't self-defense under those circumstances," said Kim, who has been closely following the trial.

In addition to the homicide charges, Rittenhouse faces two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, along with a misdemeanor charge of illegally possessing a gun. Prosecutors said they do not intend to modify those charges.

The defense, led by attorney Mark Richards, rested its case Thursday after just two days of testimony, including a dramatic turn on the stand Wednesday by Rittenhouse himself.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.