Kyle Rittenhouse accused of flashing white power sign at bar; prosecutors want him to stay away from Proud Boys

Bruce Vielmetti
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MILWAUKEE – Prosecutors in Wisconsin have asked a judge to order Kyle Rittenhouse to stay out of bars and away from groups such as the Proud Boys, an extremist group with ties to white nationalism.

The request comes a week after Rittenhouse was seen drinking at a tavern outside Kenosha after pleading not guilty – via Zoom from his lawyer's office in Racine – at his arraignment Jan. 5 on homicide and other charges related to the Aug. 25 violence in Kenosha.

Rittenhouse, who is free on $2 million bail, had just turned 18 two days earlier. After the hearing, he, his mother and several other adults went to Pudgy's Pub in Mount Pleasant. He was seen drinking beer while wearing a T-shirt reading Free as (expletive). 

Rittenhouse is charged with shooting and killing two people and wounding a third during the Kenosha unrest in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake was shot in the back and left paralyzed. The officer who fired the shots won't be charged, prosecutors said this month.

Rittenhouse's attorney responded that his client doesn't belong to or associate – even online – with such groups and called the state's motion "a not-so-thinly veiled attempt to interject the issue of race into a case that is about a person’s right to self-defense."

Kenosha, Wis., shooting suspect Kyle Rittenhouse is seen in Pudgy's Pub in Mount Pleasant on Jan. 5, 2021, posing for a photo.

More on Kenosha violence:A visual timeline of violence in Kenosha after police shooting of Jacob Blake

According to the prosecutors' motion, before entering the bar, Rittenhouse posed outside with two men as they all put their thumbs and forefingers together in what looks like an upside-down OK sign, which has become a symbol used by white supremacists. The motion also claims he He was seen making the same gesture while posing for photos inside the bar. 

Once inside, Rittenhouse had three beers over 90 minutes, which is legal in Wisconsin because he was with his mother, Wendy Rittenhouse. Prosecutors, however, asked that he be prohibited from drinking alcohol in the future because alcohol consumption often leads to violence.

The motion also states that Rittenhouse was serenaded by five men singing, "Proud of Your Boy," which prosecutors say was written for a Disney film but has become the anthem of the Proud Boys. Members of the white supremacist group have been identified as being involved in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

"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. Further, this association may serve to intimidate potential witnesses," the motion reads.

In a Thursday response to prosecutors' motion, attorney Mark Richards said Rittenhouse does not object to bail conditions that bar him from possessing or consuming alcohol and to any condition that prohibit him to associate with hate groups because he has no links to or affinity for them.

John Pierce, a Los Angeles lawyer who has been acting as Rittenhouse's online fundraising agent, and appearing with Wendy Rittenhouse on conservative online talk shows, has threatened to sue various people for defamation for suggesting the teen was a white supremacist.

Pierce and Rittenhouse's criminal defense lawyer say Rittenhouse acted in self-defense when he killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz with an assault-style rifle he was carrying on Aug. 25. He told police he was guarding a private business and offering first aid to anyone injured during protests.

No hearing on the prosecutors' request had been scheduled late Wednesday.

Follow reporter Bruce Vielmetti on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.