Things got tense in the courtroom as the defense began its case.
Just when you thought things couldn’t go worse for the prosecution in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, a freelance photographer named Nathan DeBruin testified that prosecutor Thomas Binger pressured him to alter his statement to police.
This sparked a round of memes on Twitter making fun of Binger, who is leading the prosecution on behalf of the elected DA, Michael Graveley, who has not been in court.
Nathan DeBruin testified for the defense that he ended a meeting with the prosecution, before the trial, and hired a lawyer because he felt uncomfortable, believing that Binger pressured him to change his statement to police. DeBruin claimed that Binger wanted him to add an ID of a man named Joshua Ziminski, whom Binger is also prosecuting (for arson and other charges). He said Binger showed him video that included Ziminski, whom he had not previously identified, and asked if he wanted to change his statement by adding that ID. He took this to be pressure. Ziminski is the man accused of firing a gunshot into the air right before Kyle Rittenhouse shot Joseph Rosenbaum. He has not yet taken the stand in the Rittenhouse case.
DeBruin was the third defense witness of the day.
“Mr Binger pulled out a cell phone and also a video, which was actually a photo… and asked me if I knew who a gentleman was in that photo. I said I did not,” DeBruin testified under questioning from Rittenhouse’s attorney Mark Richards. “He said this is Joshua Ziminski. Mr. Binger also has a case with him (Ziminski), and I am subpoenaed in that case also and he said that’s who that is. He put the phone down and picked it back up and said who is this. I confusedly said, Joshua Ziminski, and he said would you like to add that to your statement? I just said I didn’t want to change my statement.” DeBruin said the exchang =e made him so uncomfortable that he went and hired a lawyer.
The prosecution never chose to call him in its case in chief.
ADA James Kraus implied on cross-examination that Binger just asked Nathan DeBruin if he wanted to add anything to his statement, and he noted that DeBruin brought his own exhibits to court. He asked DeBruin if he brought his own exhibits because he was trying to “enrich yourself with your photography.” DeBruin denied that. Kraus noted that Binger did not ask DeBruin to literally write a new statement and accused him of talking to a reporter for a “biased” “gossip site” who, he believes is biased against the DA’s office. Here’s a key exchange between DeBruin and Kraus:
Kraus: “We never asked you to change anything about Kyle Rittenhouse?”
DeBruin: “Not specifically no.”
Kraus: “Did we actually ask you to retype your statement out?”
Kraus: “So what do you mean by we asked you to change it?”
DeBruin: “I am assuming there wasn’t details, but I’m assuming either add Kyle’s name because I was also shown a video off a cellphone by Mr. Binger, I don’t know what that video or whose video that was but it was a video of the shooting and that’s when I was asked if I wanted to add anything else to that statement and I said no.”
Kraus: “And you took that literally to mean writing out a statement?”
Kraus: “You didn’t take that to mean is there anything else we should cover or that we should know?”
DeBruin: “No. He didn’t say retype it, but he said did I want to add anything to that. How I interpret that is that is pretty much altering my statement and I felt uneasy with that.”
Kraus: “But you added things to your statement on the stand today.”
DeBruin: “That was because I recall in videos of certain things happening. The day I gave my statement when I walked into that police station, there wasn’t even a glass door on that building.”
Nathan DeBruin testifies that the Prosecution asked him to change his police statements. pic.twitter.com/vk91U42aHi
— Janet (@janetburke27) November 9, 2021
He testified that he didn’t know Rittenhouse. He took photos of him cleaning graffiti off a public building but didn’t know who he was.
Initially, DeBruin’s testimony focused on disturbing behavior he witnessed by Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man Rittenhouse shot. He described him tipping over a porta-potty, grabbing a chain, and saying he was “not afraid to go back to jail.”
He testified that Rosenbaum got angry when people put a dumpster fire out with a fire extinguisher. He heard Rosenbaum say, “F the police over and over again. I’m not afraid to go back to jail. Shoot me N-word. Shoot me N-word.” DeBruin also gave a vivid account of witnessing Gaige Grosskreutz pointing a gun at Rittenhouse from close proximity and Anthony Huber hitting Rittenhouse with a skateboard. Rittenhouse is charged with killing Huber and Rosenbaum and wounding Grosskreutz.
Then the witness went even more sideways for the prosecutors, who seemed to grow increasingly tense in tone with him.
Binger is wearing a Star Wars pin in court as he prosecutes Kyle Rittenhouse pic.twitter.com/5ajVvExF2P
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) November 8, 2021
On cross-examination, the assistant DA, James Kraus, also got Nathan DeBruin to admit that he didn’t include some things he testified to in his police statement, such as his testimony that Grosskreutz pointed his gun at Rittenhouse. DeBruin said he’s not an investigator, and it was easier to remember things he had photographed.
During a break in Nathan DeBruin’s testimony, Kraus snapped at Kevin Mathewson, a former Kenosha alderman who runs a site called Kenosha Eye that is often critical of, and is suing, the Kenosha County DA’s office. That’s a site that was mentioned in Nathan DeBruin’s testimony because it ran a previous story on the allegation that DeBruin felt pressured by Binger and Kraus to alter his police statement.
“You’re a failed wedding photographer,” Kraus snapped at Mathewson, who was sitting in the courtroom gallery, as Kraus walked out of court during the break. This occurred outside the presence of the jury.
The judge raised his voice, almost shouting, and said, “I don’t want to hear anything about it.”
Mathewson told Wisconsin Right Now that Kraus spoke to him first, as Mathewson sat in the gallery, saying he runs a “gossip site” and calling him a “tool.”