Kyle Rittenhouse Could Face Civil Lawsuits Following ‘Not Guilty’ Verdict

Posted: Nov 21, 2021 9:00 PM
Kyle Rittenhouse Could Face Civil Lawsuits Following ‘Not Guilty’ Verdict

Source: Townhall Media/Julio Rosas

For those on the Left ranting and raving about how easy Kyle Rittenhouse has it after the "not guilty" verdict came down on Friday, they may want to take a step back and consider what's ahead for the young man. While he may not have to serve jail time, he could still face civil lawsuits.

Writing for NBC News, Tim Stelloh and David K. Li pointed out that Rittenhouse could still claim self-defense, as he did in his criminal trial, but that the burden of proof is much lower for the prosecution. To be found guilty, a preponderance of evidence has to be proved, rather than beyond a reasonable doubt as is the case with criminal; trials.

As they included in their reporting:

"In a civil case you just have to prove negligence," said Rory Little, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law. "Did his conduct fall below the standard of care that the average person would have?"

Rittenhouse "could say, 'I didn't have the intent to kill anyone — I just panicked,'" Little added. "The jury could still say, 'We didn't think the average person would do what you did.' If your conduct is judged to be less than that, you lose."

A civil action would also allow a jury to examine a broader range of evidence.

Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at UCLA, wrote for Reason that Rittenhouse could, and, in doing so, explained the difference between a criminal trial and civil lawsuit. 

As he wrote:

[1.] Yes. A criminal acquittal doesn't preclude a civil lawsuit out of the same claims. First, the acquittal resolves only that guilt couldn't be proved beyond a reasonable doubt (requiring, say, a >90% confidence level); the standard for civil liability is preponderance of the evidence (which requires just >50%, or perhaps ≥50%, if the injury is easily proved and the burden is then shifted to the defendant to prove self-defense).

Second, liability could be based on a negligence theory; the charges against Rittenhouse were based on the theory that he acted recklessly or intentionally, depending on the charge. Of course, the negligence inquiry made its way into the analysis, because the self-defense claim turned on whether he reasonably feared death or serious bodily injury; that would play a role in any civil claim as well. But at least in principle, there might be more room for claims of unreasonable behavior in a civil negligence lawsuit than in a criminal homicide, attempted homicide, or reckless endangerment case. (One way this could happen is that the standard for criminal negligence in criminal cases is generally higher than for civil negligence, though in this case the jury instructions didn't seem to reflect that.)

As to whether or not Rittenhouse would have the money to pay in a civil lawsuit, Volokh, as well as Stelloh and Li pointed out that Rittenhouse has been able to raise money before. 

"Even if there's no financial payout for taking Rittenhouse to civil court, the symbolic value of such action could be of emotional value to the victims' families," Stelloh and Li also offered.

Civil suits have been filed, Dan Hinkel reported for The New York Times, including by the family of Anthony Huber, one of the men Rittenhouse fatally shot in self-defense. The lawsuit, from Huber's parents, are against the Kenosha Police Department and the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department. A lawsuit from Gaige Grosskreutz, whom Rittenhouse shot and injured but who survived, has also been filed, though against the authorities, not Rittenhouse.

Rick Sallinger with CBS 4 Denver has scoop about Denver attorney Milo Schwab, who is representing the family of Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man Rittenhouse fatally shot, and against Grosskreutz. 

Sallinger's reporting includes a statement from Schwab as well as co-counsel Kimberley Motley following the non-guilty verdict for Rittenhouse, and it's quite the doozy, especially with how it describes the men Rittenhouse shot:

“Today we grieve for the families of those slain by Kyle Rittenhouse. Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum did not deserve to die that night. For now, we ask for peace from everyone hurting and that the public respect the privacy of the victims and their families. That night in Kenosha, Gaige Grosskreutz, Anthony Huber, and many others acted heroically. They did not seek violence, but to end violence. What we need right now is justice, not more violence. While today’s verdict may mean justice delayed, it will not mean justice denied. We are committed to uncovering the truth of that night and holding those responsible to account.”

Huber, who had a criminal record with a conviction for strangulation and who had faced allegations of domestic violence, had struck Rittenhouse with his skateboard and had also tried to grab for his gun.

One particularly memorable incidence involved O.J. Simpson, who in 1995 was found "not guilty" of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronnie Goldman. However, in 1997 he lost a civil lawsuit against the victims' families for $33.5 million.

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