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At This Hour

Kyle Rittenhouse Takes the Stand. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 10, 2021 - 11:00   ET







RICHARDS: -- with things you had bought and brought?


RICHARDS: And do you go with that every day or is that because of the situation?

RITTENHOUSE: It was in the trunk of my car.

RICHARDS: The fanny pack, what's the situation with that?

RITTENHOUSE: It was my work bag. I brought it to work with me and I would put it under my lifeguard booth.

RICHARDS: And that had first aid supplies?


RICHARDS: After the meeting at 63rd and Sheridan Road, what's referred to as Car Source 3, what happens?

RITTENHOUSE: After the photograph, I believe -- I don't recall exactly, through there was about two or three vans that pulled up, like big vans with people inside of them.

RICHARDS: And what was their role in this evening?

RITTENHOUSE: Well, they showed up and wanted to protect the business. I didn't really have a say in what everybody was doing. I was just there doing my first aid stuff. Then Ryan Balch said, hey, why don't you guys stay here and we'll go down to Car Source number 2. RICHARDS: So the people, a group of people was going to stay at Car

Source 3 and the people depicted in this photograph were going to go where?

RITTENHOUSE: Car Source 2. RICHARDS: Is that what happened?


RICHARDS: So at that point then Sam and Sal had coverage, for lack of a better word, at both of their businesses to protect the property, correct?


RICHARDS: So you get down to Car Source 2. Did all these people go there?

RITTENHOUSE: Yes, besides Sal, the owner. He did not.

RICHARDS: During the night, was Sam and Sal there?

RITTENHOUSE: They were not.

RICHARDS: They left you guys there?

RITTENHOUSE: Yes. I believe Nick Smith was in contact with them through out the night. I'm not certain but I believe they were.

RICHARDS: You get down there, were you able to get in the business?



RITTENHOUSE: Sal, the owner, gave Nick Smith a set of keys.

RICHARDS: Did you personally see that?


RICHARDS: Did he give you any other direction regarding equipment or anything?

RITTENHOUSE: He let us know where the power washers -- I think there was a fire extinguisher in the building, the hose hookups in case there were fires that we needed to put out.

RICHARDS: Anything else?

RITTENHOUSE: He showed I believe it was Dominick Smith and Nick Black the two ladders there to get up on the roof.

RICHARDS: Did you guys use those ladders?

RITTENHOUSE: I didn't personally but the people that were on the roof did.

RICHARDS: You saw them use those ladders?

RITTENHOUSE: I didn't see them but that's how they got up there. RICHARDS: Where were you predominantly at Car Source 2?

RITTENHOUSE: I was in front of the Car Source 2.

RICHARDS: During the night at Car Source 2, did you stay there the whole time?

RITTENHOUSE: No, not the whole time.

RICHARDS: When you would leave Car Source 2, what were you doing?

RITTENHOUSE: When I left, I was with Ryan Balch. We would ask if anybody needed first aid assistance. We would see if there were any fires and we would put them out.

RICHARDS: Did you personally put out any fires?



RITTENHOUSE: I put one out at the church --

RICHARDS: Can you use the pointer?

RITTENHOUSE: So right here was where they were breaking some stuff down but right here I believe there was another building with an alleyway. It was either right here or right here. I don't remember fully.

But there was a fire down the alleyway where they were trying to set the building and church on fire. Me and Mr. Balch and I believe somebody else was with us, we went to put that fire out.

RICHARDS: Did you put it out?


RICHARDS: Then what did you do?

RITTENHOUSE: Around that time we saw Reuther Central High School on fire, the front doors. We were walking north down Sheridan Road to go put the fire out. Somebody else put the fire out before we got there.

RICHARDS: Are you saying the front right there on Civic Park?

RITTENHOUSE: No. That's my mistake. If you're walking north on Sheridan, it's the side of the building on Sheridan Road, toward the left when you're walking north.

RICHARDS: In the general area where you tried to help remove graffiti earlier?

RITTENHOUSE: Yes, in that photo to the right.

RICHARDS: And during the evening, was there any friction between your group and protesters/rioters?



RITTENHOUSE: The only type of stuff that happened was the person that attacked me first threatened to kill me twice.

RICHARDS: OK. The person who threatened to kill you, we now know is Mr. Rosenbaum, correct?


RICHARDS: Before August 25th of 2020, had you ever seen him before?


RICHARDS: Had you ever done anything to upset him?


RICHARDS: Now you said he threatened to kill you twice.


RICHARDS: Describe the first time.

RITTENHOUSE: The first time was me and Ryan Balch were a little bit north, toward the north corner of 59th and Sheridan and Mr. Rosenbaum was walking with a steel chain and he had a blue mask around his face. He was just mad about something.

Me and Mr. Balch were asking people if they needed medical help.

Then he screamed -- sorry if my language -- "If I catch any of you fuckers alone, I'm going to kill you."

RICHARDS: That was directed at you and Mr. Balch.

RITTENHOUSE: Directed to both of us, I believe.

RICHARDS: There was a second occasion where he threatened you?

RITTENHOUSE: Yes. The second time was outside of the Car Source. I don't know if it was directed toward me but I heard it. He said to -- I believe it was JoAnn Fiedler, Dustin Collette and another guy, he was screaming -- he said, "I'm going to cut your fucking hearts out" -- I'm not going to repeat the second word -- but "kill you N words."

RICHARDS: Did you ever see Mr. Rosenbaum doing any physical property damage?


RICHARDS: Where? RITTENHOUSE: I saw him with what I now know to be Joshua Ziminski. I saw him tip that trailer over and the Porta Potty. I believe he tried to start the Porta Potty on fire. I don't think he succeeded. Then I saw him with Mr. Ziminski. He was either helping start it or throwing stuff on it. I don't know which one he was doing.

RICHARDS: Where did you originally see that trailer?

RITTENHOUSE: That trailer was in the St. James church parking lot. Sort of like right over here, in the backish corner, what I remember.

RICHARDS: Did you see how it got from there to where it was put on fire?

RITTENHOUSE: It was pulled.

RICHARDS: By whom?

RITTENHOUSE: It was several people that pulled it into the street. I can't tell you definitely who pulled it into the street.

RICHARDS: And you went down there and saw them starting a fire?

RITTENHOUSE: I didn't go down there. I was at the corner of the Car Source lot.

RICHARDS: You referred to Mr. Ziminski.

Before August 25th of 2020, had you ever met Mr. Ziminski?


RICHARDS: Did you ever meet him since?

RITTENHOUSE: I have not.

RICHARDS: When you first saw Mr. Rosenbaum, was the top half of his body clothed or unclothed?

RITTENHOUSE: He was clothed with a blue mask the first time I saw him.

RICHARDS: And what was on -- what color was his shirt, if you remember?

RITTENHOUSE: A dark reddish color.

RICHARDS: Now did you provide medical help to anyone?


RICHARDS: Describe a couple of those occasions.

RITTENHOUSE: The first time I provided medical help to someone was this lady -- I think she sprained her ankle or twisted it. I don't know exactly. I'm not an expert on X-rays or I wouldn't know. She hurt her ankle and she was being carried by two gentlemen.

I said, hey -- before that, I was just pepper-sprayed. but I was like, "Hey, do you need help?"

And she said yes. I said, OK, let's go into the Car Source, where I was helping people and I wrapped her ankle. She went on her way. I let her know there was a hospital -- if you go -- I want to say south on Sheridan, across the street from Car Source, let her know there was a hospital there and she should look at it.

RICHARDS: Anything else?




RITTENHOUSE: Somebody threw a chemical bomb -- actually, right after I heard the "I'm going to cut your hearts out." I don't know who threw it but somebody threw a chemical bomb. Ryan Balch had effects from it. I helped him flush his eyes out and had him drink some water.

RICHARDS: In the answer to the question before, you said something about being pepper-sprayed?


RICHARDS: Where did that happen?

RITTENHOUSE: That happened at the Car Source right -- I believe it's the first time a big crowd of people were over there. I was pepper- sprayed by somebody that was in the crowd. I don't know why but I was pepper-sprayed.

RICHARDS: Did you do anything in retaliation?


RICHARDS: Directing your attention to later in the evening, did there come an occasion where you had contact with Mr. McGinnis?


RICHARDS: And before this evening, August 25th, 2020, had you ever met or spoke to Mr. McGinnis?


RICHARDS: You and Mr. McGinnis and Mr. Balch go someplace?


RICHARDS: Describe that.

RITTENHOUSE: I get done with my interview with Mr. McGinnis and I ask him -- I asked -- no; I don't ask him. I said, if you want to come with us, that's fine, to document and film me and Ryan helping people. He said yes, sure. He followed behind us.

RICHARDS: And in that tape from Mr. McGinnis, there's talk about you being an EMT, correct?


RICHARDS: Are you an EMT?


RICHARDS: You have first aid and other training?


RICHARDS: And you go to -- south on Sheridan Road?


RICHARDS: You cross 60th and Sheridan Road?

RITTENHOUSE: I believe we stayed just to the right going south on Sheridan Road.

RICHARDS: And eventually you crossed Sheridan Road?

RITTENHOUSE: Eventually.

RICHARDS: And were the BearCats there yet?

RITTENHOUSE: No -- yes, they were.

RICHARDS: Had they set up a line to stop people that you were aware of?

RITTENHOUSE: Not that I was aware of. I know they were parked right there and people were throwing rocks at them.

RICHARDS: Did anybody tell you not to cross that line, you wouldn't be able to go back?

RITTENHOUSE: Not until later in the evening.

RICHARDS: You cross that line. Where do you go?

RITTENHOUSE: We continue straight, straight in a southerly direction down Sheridan Road.

RICHARDS: Were you going any place in particular?

RITTENHOUSE: No. We were going to see if anybody needed medical help. I looked at a guy's shoulder on the way there.

RICHARDS: You finished with the guy's shoulder and you continue on and what happens? RITTENHOUSE: I continue walking in a southerly direction down Sheridan Road and then as I'm walking -- I believe you guys have been referring to him as Yellow Pants. He said -- he said something to me.

I believe it was, "You were the one that pointed your rifle at me, with the laser pointed at me."

I believe that's what I heard. And I didn't. That's the first time I saw him that night, so I was confused. I said, "I did," and then I continued to walk away.

RICHARDS: Was the "I did" an admission that you did it or more of a statement with a question?

RITTENHOUSE: It was a sarcastic remark.

RICHARDS: Did you engage with him any further?


RICHARDS: From there where did you go?

RITTENHOUSE: There I continue walking in a southerly direction merging toward the middle of Sheridan Road.

RICHARDS: At that point did you become aware of anything?

RITTENHOUSE: In about a couple -- as I'm walking, I started to look and I realized Mr. Balch was no longer with me.

RICHARDS: Did you continue on your way without Mr. Balch?

RITTENHOUSE: No. I went to look for Mr. Balch in the Ultimate gas station parking lot.

RICHARDS: When you went to the Ultimate gas station parking lot, describe what was going on there.

RITTENHOUSE: There were a lot of people there. I don't know what was going on. I was focusing on trying to find Mr. Balch. As I was looking for him, trying to find him, I said, OK, no problem, I'll just go back to the Car Source, Car Source number 2.


RICHARDS: OK. And describe what happened as you did that.

RITTENHOUSE: As I did that, I received a phone call from Dominick Black.

RICHARDS: Let me back up. Were you able to get back to Car Source number 2?

RITTENHOUSE: No, I did not.

RICHARDS: Describe that. RITTENHOUSE: As I was trying to get back, the police stopped me --

well, didn't stop me. I believe they said something along the lines of to not go down there. I was telling them, hey, I need to go down there, that's where I'm at, that business -- I don't remember exactly how that conversation went. But they wouldn't let me go back to Car Source lot number 2.

RICHARDS: You weren't able to get back to Car Source 2?


RICHARDS: Did you disobey the police order?


RICHARDS: You're alone, stuck on the other side of the police line from the Car Source 2. Where do you go?

RITTENHOUSE: I go to where there's other people at the gas station, protecting the gas station. I go there because I believe that's the safest place to go because there's other people there.

RICHARDS: At that point were you able to find Mr. Balch?


RICHARDS: You're at the Ultimate gas station I think we've been calling it?


RICHARDS: Point it out.

RITTENHOUSE: Right there, the Ultimate convenience center diagonal from the Gulf gas station.

RICHARDS: When you were there, what's the next significant thing that happened?

RITTENHOUSE: Dominick Black calls me and he says, "Kyle, I need you to get down to Car Source lot number 3. The cars are being bashed in. They're setting all the cars on fire. I need you to go and put the fires out."

RICHARDS: Did you do anything as a result of that phone call?



RITTENHOUSE: At the Ultimate gas station, I asked -- I don't know who he is but I asked an individual if he could come with me and if I could have a fire extinguisher to put out the fires.

RICHARDS: Were both of those requests satisfied?

RITTENHOUSE: One of them were.


RITTENHOUSE: I was given a fire extinguisher but he said he can't come with me. He said he believes there's already people down there helping protect the business.

RICHARDS: What did you do next?

RITTENHOUSE: I start running toward the Car Source lot number 3 to put out the fires, pausing occasionally to catch my breath and walk.

RICHARDS: OK. On the way to Car Source 3, did you have any interaction with Mr. Rosenbaum?


RICHARDS: Did you speak to Mr. Rosenbaum?


RICHARDS: Did you notice Mr. Rosenbaum doing anything as you went down to Car Source 3?

RITTENHOUSE: I didn't notice Mr. Rosenbaum until he came out from behind the car and ambushed me.

RICHARDS: OK. I'll get to that.

Did you run the whole way?

RITTENHOUSE: No, I didn't.

RICHARDS: You had your gun, correct?


RICHARDS: And you had a fire extinguisher?


RICHARDS: And you had your medic --

RITTENHOUSE: My medical bag, yes.

RICHARDS: Were you asking people about medic, medic at that point?

RITTENHOUSE: I was asking people if they needed medical help as I was getting down there.

RICHARDS: Did you receive any responses?

RITTENHOUSE: No, I didn't.

RICHARDS: Describe your approach to Car Source number three. RITTENHOUSE: As I'm walking down Sheridan Road, I hear somebody

scream, "Burn in hell." And I replied with, "Friendly, friendly, friendly," to let them know I'm just here to help. I want to put out the fires.

I notice a Duramax, I noticed a flame in the back of the Duramax. I stepped toward the Duramax and, as I'm stepping forward, I believe his name is Joshua Ziminski, he steps toward me with a pistol in his hand. As I'm walking -- as I'm walking to put out the fire, I dropped the fire extinguisher and I take a step back.

RICHARDS: When you stepped back from Mr. Ziminski, what's your plan?

RITTENHOUSE: My plan is to get out of that situation and go back north down Sheridan Road to where the Car Source lot number 2 was.

RICHARDS: Did you get back?

Were you able to go in a northerly direction?


RICHARDS: Describe what happens.


RITTENHOUSE: I -- once I take that step back, I look over my shoulder and Mr. Rosenbaum -- Mr. Rosenbaum was now running from my right side and I was cornered from -- in front of me with Mr. Ziminski. And there were -- there was people right there.

RICHARDS: Take a deep breath, Kyle.

RITTENHOUSE: That's when I -- that's when I run --


You can just relax for a minute, sir. We're going to take a break, about 10 minutes. And please don't talk about the case during the break, read, watch or listen to any (INAUDIBLE).

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hello, everybody, I'm Kate Bolduan. The judge there, Judge Schroeder, saying they're going to be taking a break in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.

As we've been watching this live testimony of Kyle Rittenhouse, taking the stand this morning in his own defense. Let me bring in right now CNN legal analyst Laura Coates, CNN legal analyst Paul Callan as well as Shimon Prokupecz will be joining us shortly.

Laura, your take, as we watch Kyle Rittenhouse break down on the stand right now?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, if I'm the defense team, I wonder if this was the opportune time to break because of course you want to have the sympathy of these jurors. Their entire case is premised on the fact that he felt in fear of his life and he was acting in self-defense.

What they've also described today so far is a kid who is overwhelmed. That's what they're trying to convey, that he's furloughed from the YMCA. He is somebody who has medical training in the form of CPR and the like.

And they're trying to establish that he was there and present to be helpful and shouting, "Friendly, friendly, friendly" when confronted.

What you also see is the benefit that the judge has given, by virtue of allowing the defense team to refer to the victims as things like "rioters" or "arsonists" or "looters" or to paint them with a -- in the -- with the perspective of somebody who was acting violently.

And so you see the benefit right now, as he has been able to say "I was ambushed by" or "before I was attacked by" or "the person was acting aggressively."

But at the end of the day, the prosecution will have an opportunity to look at this, to be able to cross examine and essentially test what we've seen so far. The idea when all of the people who were out there that day, why did Kyle Rittenhouse feel that his life was threatened in a way that others who were accompanying him did not?

So I'll be curious to see whether he has regained composure, whether there is a reason, for example, to have a testimony for him strategically to not regain composure and bend the ear of a sympathetic jury.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Laura, stay with me.

Paul, just your reaction to what we've heard so far?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is the bravest move of any defense attorney; that is putting his client on the stand in a murder case. Here you have an individual who was 17 years old when this went down, Kyle Rittenhouse. He's 18 now. It's kind of a dangerous maneuver.

But I have to say, I thought he made a very good and very compelling witness, as least as his testimony has begun. I mean, he started out really by showing or by stating that he was basically there to help people and to prevent destruction of property.

That then is followed by a description of Mr. Rosenbaum, who is the person that he shot four times. When he first encounters Rosenbaum, Rosenbaum is described as wearing a blue mask and carrying some kind of a steel chain.

Rosenbaum then utters a number of threats, including, "I'll cut your heart out" and "I'll kill you."

And then Rittenhouse proceeds on his way and only later encounters Mr. Rosenbaum again. And of course, when his attorney tries to get him to describe the second encounter, that's when Rittenhouse breaks down on the stand and starts crying, I'm sure his attorneys will say, because he's reliving this terrible event.

I think it's compelling testimony. I think it's a good start for the defense. If you have a skilled prosecutor following up with a detailed cross examination, maybe he makes Rittenhouse look like a phony.


CALLAN: But I have to say, from an emotional standpoint, so far, he's having a favorable impact on the jury.

BOLDUAN: Laura, you mentioned strategy and just the mere fact that this is the first full day for the defense in calling witnesses, they began yesterday but this is the first full day.

And this is -- we have to remind everyone this is -- and you've reminded me of this so many times, Laura -- this is so rare for a defense team to do, which is to call someone to testify in their own defense because the risks are so great.

What do you see in -- what about the choices that the defense team is making, that Kyle Rittenhouse is making, taking the stand so early on?

COATES: Well, normally you put your best foot forward. And the idea of the emotional appeal, the idea of this young-looking defendant, somebody who is now only 18. They're well aware of the publicity surrounding this trial as well, the notion that when he initially turned himself in, people were running to his defense. I believe there were phrases like "the cherub-faced defendant" or the "baby face," et cetera.

And this was a kid who had no business being there and fell on his -- fell down on his luck. These are the phrases that were used to describe this person, who was accused of killing two people and wounding a third person.

And so I think they're capitalizing in part on the fact that he sounds about his age. He's carrying a fanny pack. He describes that as going to -- using it as his work bag to be a lifeguard. They're trying to paint this full picture of who this young man was and that he found himself under these precarious situations.

Now there's, of course, a strategy of that. But it doesn't necessarily mean that that, in and of itself, that description, is enough to persuade a jury that the person was entitled to use lethal force to repel whatever force may have been used against him.

We've learned from the prosecution's case, one of the people threw a plastic bag; another person threw a skateboard or wielded it in some way. We know that there is an indication that there was a more aggressive person who was initially shot.

Remember, Kate, just because you may have been entitled -- and I -- we still have to unfold that -- to harming and injuring the first person, there was a domino effect here and subsequent shots were fired, subsequent people were injured.

And so they've got to be able to prove self-defense for each of those instances, each of those victims.

BOLDUAN: And, to Laura's point, Paul, I don't know if it's a tug and pull or even if it is in contrast of the emotion that the jury is seeing -- the jury might feel, quite simply, do they believe Kyle Rittenhouse and what he's saying on the stand versus the legal questions that they will be asked to answer when they are deliberating?

CALLAN: Well, when they deliberate, Kate, they're going to be looking at probably around three important factors.

And I think the first one will be, why was he there in the first place?

All right, did he have a right to be there in the first place?

Now of course, he's going to say he had the right to go out on the street and try to help defend property. That's what they were setting up in the first instance, an explanation as to why. He was there to help people, is what his defense attorneys will say.

But then you get into a more complicated analysis, which is part two. And that is when he starts encountering people in the street like Mr. Rosenbaum -- and the description he gives of Rosenbaum is a pretty frightening one at this point, you know, in a mask and carrying a steel chain and threatening to cut his heart out.

Now that would cause the jury, if they like Rittenhouse, to think that maybe he had a legitimate threat on his life.

And when they look at that, you know, the ability to use what we call deadly physical force requires a couple of things.

One, the jury has to decide that, subjectively, in Rittenhouse's own mind, he thought that he was going to be killed or subjected to serious physical injury.

But there's a second test as well because obviously you can have some kind of a deranged person who is not really being threatened. He doesn't have the right to go around and use deadly physical force.

So the second part of the test is what a reasonable person, a reasonable human being in Kyle Rittenhouse's position, have felt the same way, that he had to use deadly physical force to protect himself.

And if the answer to both of those questions is yes, he was subjectively threatened and objectively threatened, then he would have the right to use deadly physical force. And that's the legal analysis that will go along in the jury room at the end of this trial.

BOLDUAN: Even well before then, we're in the middle of what the judge said is going to be a 10-minute recess, as we saw Kyle Rittenhouse breaking down on the stand there as he's just beginning the testimony, beginning questioning by his defense team.

Let me get over to Shimon Prokupecz on the ground outside the courthouse in Wisconsin.