Kenosha County, WI – The murder trial of 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse took a bizarre turn on Thursday when the prosecution called a witness who filmed the shooting of Joseph Rosenbaum “biased” because he worked for conservative media outlets and called the people rioting in the streets “rioters.”
Journalist Drew Hernandez filmed many of the riots that took place across the country and he was present for several days in Kenosha after Blake was shot by police in August of 2020.
Hernandez now works as a commentator for Real America’s Voice, a conservative outlet, but during the Kenosha riots he was still freelancing to multiple media channels and publishing videos and commentary on his own website and social media platforms.
He testified that on the night Rittenhouse killed two rioters and wounded another, he first saw the then-17 year old “try to de-escalate” the situation.
“Antifa had their shields out, throwing rocks at officers, even trying to get inside the hood of one of the police vehicles,” Hernandez testified.
Hernandez testified that the rioters “attempted to agitate” the group of armed people that Rittenhouse was with protecting the car dealership.
“The rioters initiated that conflict,” he told the jury.
The prosecution objected to Hernandez’s characterization of the violent protesters as rioters and Kenosha Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder ordered the defense attorneys to “proceed by question and answer.”
So the defense re-asked the question according to the judge’s instructions.
“At that point, Kyle Rittenhouse came out of Car Source 2 and he attempted to de-escalate the situation,” Hernandez recalled.
He said he couldn’t hear what Rittenhouse was saying to the rioters but said from the physical gestures he made that he was “clearly attempts to de-escalate the situation and he actually is successful because the rioters then disperse.”
Hernandez testified that saw rioters starting trouble with armed citizens who were protecting private property from rioters.
He told the jury that Rosenbaum, one of the men who was later fatally shot by Rittenhouse, “led the charge into a gas station. He was getting physically aggressive.”
“He appeared to be attempting to start a physical altercation with people in the gas station to the point where he was telling one of the individuals with a rifle, ‘Shoot me, N-word, shoot me,’ clearly attempting to start a physical altercation.”
Hernandez testified that he later saw Rosenbaum setting a trash can on fire in the middle of the street.
He also testified that he had seen Rittenhouse walking through the streets advertising himself as a medic and offering to help injured rioters.
Hernandez, who was filming what unfolded on his cell phone and with a bodyworn camera, told the jury that he saw Rosenbaum going after Rittenhouse before he was shot.
“The first thing I did identify was that Rosenbaum was charging Kyle Rittenhouse from behind. And as he’s charging him into the Car Source parking lot, a firearm goes off,” Hernandez said.
He said he saw it all unfold with his own eyes.
“As the first firearm goes off, Rosenbaum is already charging Kyle from behind, attempts to throw a bag at him, not sure what’s inside of it. And Kyle… turns around and Rosenbaum is lunging towards him, very clearly, and Kyle fires,” the witness described.
Journalist Drew Hernandez testifies that Rosenbaum was lunging toward Rittenhouse, charging him from behind. He saw it through his own eyes. pic.twitter.com/GmDb9N3VNb
— Ian Miles Cheong @ stillgray.substack.com (@stillgray) November 11, 2021
He said he never saw Rittenhouse behave aggressively toward anyone or pointing his gun at anyone or threatening anyone
When Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger started his cross-examination of Hernandez, he began by trying to impeach the journalist as a biased witness.
Binger used a sarcastic tone when he questioned Hernandez about his documentation of the Black Lives Matter riots in a variety of cities and then tried to get the journalist to characterize the politics of the media outlets he has worked for.
“What is the relevance?” the judge interrupted the prosecutor before the defense had a chance to object.
“It goes to the bias of the witness, your honor,” Binger replied.
But the judge was having none of it.
“This is not a political trial, I don’t know how you would isolate a person’s particular politics,” Schroeder said.
After having presented hours of videos captured during the riots by a slew of people from a variety of political backgrounds, Binger tried to characterize the videos filmed by Hernandez as biased.
“Your videos that you have captured of these incidents that you call riots? They’re very slanted against the people who are rioting,” Binger said. “You characterize them as Antifa, Black Lives Matter rioters, correct?”
“Because they are rioting in the footage, yes, absolutely,” Hernandez responded.
Prosecutor: "Your videos that you have captured of these incidents that you call 'riots' they're very slanted against the people who are rioting. You characterize them as 'Antifa, BLM rioters.' Correct?"@DrewHLive: "Because they are rioting in the footage, yes absolutely." pic.twitter.com/XjRuJCaLFt
— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) November 11, 2021
Then Binger accused the journalist of working directly with Rittenhouse’s defense team because he used an attorney from a big law firm in Madison that had also been retained by the lawyers representing Rittenhouse.
Hernandez told the court he had no idea that they had used attorneys from the same law firm.
Rittenhouse’s attorneys explained to the judge that they had hired a person to perform a service of doing a “phone dump” for cell phone records but that the person hadn’t done any legal work for them.
Binger tried to discredit Hernandez in front of the jury by pointing out his social media posts critical of Black Lives Matter and rioters in general, and referred to a tweet posted shortly after Rosenbaum was shot that referred to Rittenhouse as an “armed citizen” and Rosenbaum as a rioter.
“You were recording this because there’s someone on the ground there that appears to be injured and is being treated by medics. Is that fair to say?” Binger asked the witness.
“Yes, because they were rioting,” Hernandez replied.
Prosecutor: "You had already jumped to a conclusion. An apparent conclusion at that moment, right?"
Journalist Drew Hernandez: "That's what apparently means." pic.twitter.com/CTjxNUvhqS
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) November 11, 2021
The journalist didn’t attempt to conceal the fact that he had expressed his opinions in social media posts as he shared videos shortly after incidents occurred, but said he was expressing thoughts that were in the moment and not necessarily his final conclusions.
Hernandez told the jury that he hadn’t shown any bias in the posts because when he made them, he had no idea who Rittenhouse or Rosenbaum were and it was just video that had documented the events.
The defense closed its case late on Thursday afternoon and the judge said he planned to instruct the jury on Monday morning, have closing arguments, and get them started deliberating before the end of the day.