Fact Check: Did Kyle Rittenhouse Prosecutor Point Gun at Jury, Telling Them to Convict?

Defense and prosecution delivered their closing arguments in the Kenosha County Court trial of Kyle Rittenhouse on Monday, November 15.

Rittenhouse is charged with five felonies including reckless homicide, intentional homicide and attempted intentional homicide. (The judge dismissed a misdemeanor charge of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.)

The defense insists Rittenhouse acted in self-defense when he fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz during Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha in 2020.

The Claim

While making his closing statement, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger produced the weapon that Rittenhouse used during the shooting incident on August 25, 2020.

Binger then raised and pointed the weapon in the courtroom. The moment was captured by the court's cameras and multiple photographers in the room.

The video and images of the episode have since been widely shared online, accompanied by questions around Binger's handling of the firearm—including his appearing to put his finger on the trigger—and claims that he aimed the rifle at the jury.

One post on the r/Conspiracy subreddit, which gathered more than 2,800 upvotes as of Tuesday, included the courtroom photo with the caption: "This prosecutor pointed a gun at people and told them to find Kyle Rittenhouse guilty..."

Others accused Binger of "jury intimidation" and "recklessly break[ing] every gun safety rule known to man," with some outlets speculating that the rifle could have been loaded.

The Facts

The image of the prosecutor wielding the gun circulated on Twitter and Instagram, but most posts failed to provide additional context, such as the full video of the court scene or a timestamp.

In the original live broadcast from the courtroom (timestamped at the two hours 46 minutes mark), Binger does indeed produce the firearm while demonstrating his assessment of Rittenhouse's actions in the run-up to the shooting incident.

While it is accurate to say that the prosecutor raises the weapon and points it in a certain direction, the line of sight appears to go diagonally across the room, rather than toward the jury, which is seated behind and to the left of the spot where he stands.

Kyle Rittenhouse in court
Kyle Rittenhouse, center, walks off the witness stand for a short recess after breaking down during his testimony at his trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse on November 10, 2021 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Jury box is seen in the background behind him, top right. Sean Krajacic/Getty Images
Kenosha County Court
Judge Bruce Schroeder, center, watches a video that has been enlarged with Assistant District Attorney James Kraus, right, and Corey Chirafisi, an attorney for Kyle Rittenhouse, during Rittenhouse's trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Empty jury chairs can be seen in the background. Sean Krajacic-Pool/Getty Images

Photos of that particular moment are limited to certain angles, as journalists are prohibited from taking photos of seated jurors in some states, including Wisconsin.

But pictures taken during breaks in the process show that there is a significant gap between the jurors' box and the public gallery—the gap that Binger appears to target.

Indeed, as several media outlets reported in their broadcasts of the trial, the weapon appeared to be pointed to the side of the courtroom.

"Binger [...] aimed the gun in front of the jury to demonstrate," Reuters reported in its coverage of the trial.

"Prosecutor Thomas Binger points Kyle Rittenhouse's weapon in court during closing arguments (it was checked to be safe/not loaded) as he demonstrates what was happening in the moments leading up to the first killing that night," CNN's Omar Jimenez tweeted from inside the courtroom.

"At one point, Binger raised the gun himself and pointed it at a wall to demonstrate the way Rittenhouse brandished his weapon in Rosenbaum's direction, which, according to Binger, provoked the fatal clashes," The Guardian wrote.

Additionally, the barrel of the rifle appears elevated to be significantly above the head level of seated members of the audience.

The claims that Binger was "intimidating" the jury to force a conviction are also inaccurate.

As is clear from the video, he is heard describing the events of the incident as he attempts to re-enact them. At no point during the demonstration does he say how the jury should vote.

Many of the posts claiming that the prosecutor failed to uphold gun safety protocols neglect to note that immediately before picking up the weapon, he clarified to the court that "I'm having detectives check it to make sure it is safe."

In fact, as Newsweek reported in its live feed, both the prosecution and defense attorneys at one stage wielded the weapon, and in both cases they "double-checked the gun was empty and safe."

Kyle Rittenhouse's lead attorney Mark Richards
Mark Richards, Kyle Rittenhouse's lead attorney, demonstrates how Rittenhouse used his gun as he gives his closing argument on November 15, 2021. Both Richards and prosecutor Thomas Binger explicitly requested for the weapon to be checked by safety experts before their respective demonstrations. Sean Krajacic-Pool/Getty Images

The Ruling

Fact Check - False

False.

While it is true that the prosecutor Thomas Binger did indeed briefly wield Kyle Rittenhouse's rifle in court, there is no indication that it was aimed at the jury.

The audio from the courtroom also confirms that at no point during the demonstration did Binger instruct the jury to produce a guilty verdict.

Finally, there is no basis to the claims that the weapon was loaded or unsafe. Both Binger and—later—defense attorney Mark Richards stated that it was first checked by a weapons safety professional.

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK

Kyle Rittenhouse, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger holds Kyle Rittenhouse's gun as he gives the state's closing argument in Kyle Rittenhouse's trial at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. Rittenhouse is accused of killing two people and wounding a third during a protest over police brutality in Kenosha, last year. Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News/Pool/AP Photo