Shortly after pleading not guilty to murder and weapons charges earlier this month, Kyle Rittenhouse showed up at a bar in Mount Pleasant, Wis., clad in a T-shirt that said “Free as F***”, prosecutors said. Then the 18-year-old allegedly drank three beers, posed for photos with members of Proud Boys and flashed a “white power” hand sign.
The excursion raised red flags for prosecutors handling the state's case against Rittenhouse, who is charged with fatally shooting two men and wounding a third during an August protest following the police shooting of a Black man in Kenosha, Wisc.
On Wednesday, the Kenosha County District Attorney's Office asked a judge to forbid Rittenhouse from drinking alcohol, using "white supremacist" signs, and spending time with members of the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist group with ties to white nationalism.
"The defendant's continued association with members of a group that prides itself on violence, and the use of their symbols, raises the significant possibility of future harm," prosecutors said in a motion.
An attorney representing Rittenhouse did not immediately return a message from The Washington Post late on Wednesday. In court, his lawyers have argued that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense in the shootings. The then-17-year-old told police he traveled to Kenosha, armed with a gun he purchased using a coronavirus relief stimulus check, to protect a car dealership and render first-aid amid unrest over the police killing of Jacob Blake.
Far-right groups, including the Proud Boys, have rallied behind Rittenhouse, defending his actions and hailing him as a hero. President Donald Trump refused to condemn the shooting, and suggested Rittenhouse may have been defending himself.
Photos of Rittenhouse socializing with Proud Boys at Pudgy's Pub first surfaced on social media last week, the Kenosha News reported. Amid public outrage over the photos, police visited the bar and viewed security footage, but determined that Rittenhouse had not violated the terms of his bail or broken Wisconsin law, which allows adults under 21 to drink alcohol in bars if accompanied by a parent.
According to court records obtained by The Washington Post, Rittenhouse arrived at Pudgy's Pub with his mother on Jan. 5, about 90 minutes after he pleaded not guilty in a remote court hearing. He had been released from jail in November after posting a $2 million bond, which his former attorney John Pierce said was raised through "Internet fundraising." Prosecutors noted that neither Rittenhouse nor his family had to put up any property or money of their own as collateral for his release.
Inside the bar, prosecutors said, several adults welcomed him and "loudly serenaded" the 18-year-old with a rendition of "Proud of Your Boy," a song originally written for Disney's "Aladdin," that has in recent years been claimed as an anthem by the Proud Boys.
Then Rittenhouse posed for photos with the men, prosecutors said. Photos filed as evidence by the Kenosha prosecutors show the teenager flashing a hand sign that has been designated as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League.
"In these photographs, the defendant and the other adult males flashed the 'OK' sign, which has been co-opted as a sign of 'white power' by known white supremacist groups," prosecutors said.
In the motion filed Wednesday, prosecutors asked that Rittenhouse be banned from associating with members of any "violent white supremacist groups," including the Proud Boys. Prosecutors noted that his association with the group "may serve to intimidate potential witnesses, who may be unwilling to testify in this case because they may fear that the defendant's associates will harm them or their families."
The Proud Boys have a history of participating in violence, especially at protests, prosecutors said. The motion also noted that members of the group were present at the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The photos also showed Rittenhouse drinking beers inside the bar with several adults, including his mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, the court filings said.
Prosecutors asked a judge to restrict Rittenhouse from consuming alcohol as part of his bail conditions.
"The State of Wisconsin prohibits those under the age of 21 from possessing or consuming alcohol (with some limited exceptions) because underage drinkers are not mature enough to handle alcohol responsibly," prosecutors said. "Furthermore, the consumption of alcohol increases the likelihood of violent criminal acts."
The court has not set a time to consider the request from prosecutors. A final pretrial hearing in his case is scheduled for March 10, and jury selection is set to begin on March 29.