Topline

Both online vendors tapped by Kyle Rittenhouse’s family to produce merchandise promoting the teenage shooter’s innocence have refused to take part, according to a website launched to sell the products, stymying attempts to raise money off of his divisive reputation. 

Key Facts

Rittenhouse’s family launched the website, FreeKyleUSA, last week to help raise $2 million in defense funds to fight the six charges (five felonies and one misdemeanor) the 17-year-old is facing for the fatal shooting of two people and injury of a third during summer unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

Attempts to sell merchandise on the website—dozens of apparel items and accessories emblazoned with “Free Kyle” logos and “Self-defense is a right, not a privilege” slogans—quickly drew scrutiny, resulting in Printify, the company used to print and sell the goods, terminating its relationship with Rittenhouse’s family.

“We have chosen to discontinue our business relationship with this store in order to mitigate business risk,” said Printify in a statement, adding: “Ultimately, we don’t want to be affiliated with a story that’s involved in such a complex, controversial and ongoing case.” 

On Wednesday, Rittenhouse’s lawyer John Pierce retweeted a post from the family website’s Twitter page explaining that the store “is offline for now due to us being deplatformed by our second vendor.” 

The post did not name the second vendor, and neither Pierce nor FreeKyleUSA responded to questions about identifying the company.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, outrage over the vendors refusing to sell Rittenhouse’s merchandise drove an influx of straight donations to the site, which has now collected over $66,000.

Crucial Quote 

“We are rebuilding after being censored and deplatformed by our printing providers. Twice,” reads a note on the FreeKyleUSA store

Chief Critic 

“I think it’s frankly vile and disgusting and in extreme poor taste,” Kimberly Motley, the attorney for the lone survivor of the three men shot by Rittenhouse, Gaige Grosskreutz, told ABC News. Motley said the merchandise store is an insult to the family and friends of the two who died: Anthony Huber, 26, and Joseph Rosenbaum, 36. “They are going to be celebrating Christmas without their loved ones. Meanwhile, you know, Kyle Rittenhouse’s mom is trying to profit off of these tragedies,” said Motley. 

Key Background 

Rittenhouse’s case has become a rallying point among some conservatives who argue that Rittenhouse, who said he was in Kenosha protecting small businesses from violence that devolved from anti-racism protests in the city, is a patriot forced to act in self defense. Consequently, right-wing groups have poured millions of dollars into his legal defense fund and Rittenhouse’s mother says she’s received $100,000 from two organizations—one that supports gun rights and one that backs militias across the country—to help with personal expenses. Rittenhouse was freed on $2 million bail on Nov. 20. 

What To Watch For 

Ordered to stand trial on all six counts, Rittenhouse is expected to plead “not guilty” at his arraignment on Jan. 5 in Kenosha County Circuit Court. His trial does not yet have a start date. 

Tangent 

As President Trump continues to announce a slew of pardons on his way out the door, social media users began to speculate that Trump may pardon Rittenhouse. However, even if Trump was considering this (for which there is no evidence), it would not be within the president’s powers to pardon Rittenhouse as it can only be used in relation to federal crimes, not state crimes, per the Constitution. 

Further Reading 

“Kyle Rittenhouse Going To Trial On All Six Counts, Court Decides” (Forbes)

“Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse’s new merchandise site signals ‘new era’ of criminal defense” (The Washington Post) 

“No, President Trump Cannot Pardon Kenosha Shooter Kyle Rittenhouse” (Law & Crime)

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