The Kenosha County DA Has a History of Prosecuting Self-Defense Cases

Deputy District Attorney Mike Graveley addresses the court during a former suburban Milwaukee police officer, Steven Zelich's sentencing on Wednesday, March 30, 2016, in Kenosha, Wis. Zelich was sentenced to 35 years in prison for killing an Oregon woman and ditching her body in a suitcase along a highway. He pleaded guilty to first-degree reckless homicide with use of a dangerous weapon and hiding a corpse. (Kevin Poirier/The Kenosha News via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

Just as more details in the case against Kyle Rittenhouse are released, questions should be raised into the judgment of the crowd pacifying DA who filed the charges against the 17-year-old accused of murder.  Even included in the court filing establishing the charges are numerous claims that Rittenhouse was attacked before ever firing a shot.  District Attorney Michael Graveley’s filing suggests that Rittenhouse hadn’t threatened anyone prior to being rushed by Joseph Rosenbaum, who was subsequently shot and killed by Rittenhouse.

The filing details that the witness to the shooting saw Rosenbaum attempt to take the rifle from Rittenhouse before Rittenhouse turned and fired shots at Rosenbaum. The DA’s filing was also woefully short on details (saying Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag at Rittenhouse but video evidence clearly showed the bag had items in it which could have injured Rittenhouse – says it “appears” Gaige Grosskreutz was holding a firearm) but despite this lack of video supported explanation the complaint still lays the clear details that Rittenhouse didn’t fire a single shot at anyone who didn’t pose a threat to him.

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley has a history of filing charges against those who likely were defending themselves.  In fact, you may have already heard of this case when it made circles in national media in 2018.

Randall P. Volar was a resident of Kenosha County when he used a website, later confiscated by the FBI, to target and traffic numerous young black women before 2018.   In early 2018, he was arrested, charged, and released on bail for the trafficking of these young black girls (as young as 12).  In June 2018, after meeting one of his victims at his house, he allegedly attempted to rape her at which point Chrystul Kizer shot Volar, lit his house on fire, and fled the scene.

Kizer was arrested and charged with Volar’s murder and her bail was set at one million dollars.  After nearly two years in jail, Kizer was released on a reduced bail of $400,000 which was raised from various trafficking victims and criminal justice reform organizations from around the country.  While it is noted that Kizer’s trial has not publicly presented the details of the strength of the prosecution’s case, several legal groups from around the country sent letters of condemnation to DA Graveley, calling out his unprofessional and unnecessary actions with the Kizer case.

The National Lawyers Guild Chapter at Harvard sent Graveley a blistering rebuke of his handling of the Kizer case.

“Your actions to date in the Chrystul Kizer case stand in grave breach of these professional responsibilities. Chrystul was a 17-year-old girl when she killed the 34-year-old man who had been raping and physically abusing her. She deserves empathy and support for the horrible abuse she suffered at the hands of a grown man, not criminalization. “Sound discretion” and “justice” in this case would clearly look like dropping the charges so she can move on with her life and recovery. You have a duty to improve and seek reform for the prosecutor’s office, not to go to extreme lengths to prosecute cases that do not belong in the courthouse to begin with. Your insistence on prosecuting the case against the plan language meaning of the safe harbor law is bizarre and negligent. It seems to come from a place of racist fear of Chrystul, a young Black woman, and should have no place in the administration of the prosecutorial power.”

Let’s not pretend like any of these groups will be coming out swinging for Rittenhouse, but it at least calls into question the DA Graveley’s judgment in the quality of cases that he chooses to file.  Is it possible that Graveley filed charges in response to community pressures knowing he will later drop those charges or lessen them to a few misdemeanors?  Absolutely, but with Graveley’s refusal to dismiss charges against Kizer, it shows he likely doesn’t care about public opinion.