The charge — one count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 — was a misdemeanor that carried a maximum penalty of nine months in jail or a $10,000 fine. As The Washington Post previously reported, many expected the charge would be among the easiest for prosecutors to prove, but Judge Bruce Schroeder ultimately dismissed it over questions of the gun’s barrel length and exceptions to minors carrying weapons written into Wisconsin law.
Rittenhouse’s attorney has been pushing for a dismissal of the misdemeanor charge throughout the trial. While the Wisconsin law generally classifies minors in possession of dangerous weapons to be a misdemeanor, Judge Schroeder — citing the confusing language in the law — accepted the argument from Rittenhouse’s lawyer that the misdemeanor only applies to 17-year-olds carrying short-barrel rifles.
As a result, Judge Schroeder ruled, prosecutors would need to prove the barrel of Rittenhouse’s rifle was under 16 inches, with an overall length less than 26 inches. On Monday, prosecutors acknowledged that the AR-15 style rifle Rittenhouse used to shoot three people, killing two, was 36 inches long with a 16 inch barrel.
While Judge Schroeder had denied previous attempts to dismiss the misdemeanor gun charge, he appeared to signal a change of mind during a hearing last Friday, Nov. 12. “I‘m still trying to figure out what it says, what is prohibited,” Schroeder of the law at the time. “Now I have the good fortune of having some experience and a legal education. How is your ordinary citizen supposed to acquaint herself with what this law says?”
The misdemeanor gun charge is the second against Rittenhouse that Judge Schroeder has dismissed: a curfew violation charge (another misdemeanor) was dropped last week after the judge ruled prosecutors did not present enough evidence. Rittenhouse is still facing five criminal charges, including homicide and attempted homicide. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Throughout the trial, Judge Schroeder has drawn a particular amount of attention for some of his behavior and decisions. On Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, he encouraged the courtroom, including the jury, to applaud any veterans in the room; the veteran in attendance just so happened to be a defense witness about to take the stand. Schroeder has also been criticized for his decision to block prosecutors from referring to the people Rittenhouse killed as “victims,” and suggested “rioters,” “looters” or “arsonists” was fine if the defense could provide evidence justifying the use of those words.