Biden staffers allege police “laughed” at their pleas for help when assaulted by Trump Train last year + Rittenhouse trial begins


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Trump Train lawsuit

A lawsuit brought by Democratic staffers aboard a Biden campaign bus last year alleged in court filings that police “laughed” at their request for help when Trump supporters tried to run their bus off the road. The incident, which occurred on a Texas highway in October 2020, led to at least one vehicular accident and the cancellation of multiple Democratic campaign events in the state due to safety concerns. Then-President Trump praised his supporters in a tweet after video was posted online.

Four people aboard and accompanying the Biden bus later filed suit against drivers of the so-called “Trump Train” and against law enforcement officials who “turned a blind eye to the attack — despite pleas for help”. The plaintiffs, volunteer Eric Cervini, former State Sen. Wendy Davis, staffer David Gins, and bus driver Timothy Holloway, allege the Trump supporters committed civil conspiracy and civil assault (pdf):

Defendants Cisneros, Ceh, Joeylynn Mesaros, Robert Mesaros, Park, and John/Jane Does, together, sought to accomplish a course of action: to intimidate and threaten the Biden-Harris Campaign’s staff and volunteers in an effort to stifle their political advocacy.

Prior to the events described in the preceding paragraphs, Defendants Cisneros, Ceh, Joeylynn Mesaros, Robert Mesaros, Park, and John/Jane Does had a meeting of the minds as to this course of action. Defendants planned with each other and others to knowingly intimidate constitutionally eligible voters by physically assaulting, threatening, and harassing Plaintiffs while driving on their intended route, including on I-35…

Plaintiffs bring a claim of civil assault, the elements of which mirror the elements of criminal assault…Defendants Cisneros, Robert Mesaros, and John/Jane Does intentionally and/or knowingly threatened Plaintiffs with imminent bodily injury by engaging in aggressive, dangerous, and reckless driving that put Plaintiffs and others on I-35 in physical danger… [they] were each captured on video abruptly and rapidly slowing down the bus, boxing the bus in, and driving in front of or to the side of the bus at a dangerously low speed, and dangerously close to the bus, in an apparent effort to rapidly slow down the bus, to box the bus in, and/or to inhibit its movement on I-35.

The Biden crew separately ask the court to declare the San Marcos police’s failure to assist the bus as a violation of the Ku Klux Klan Act (pdf):

Defendants are San Marcos Director of Public Safety Chase Stapp and unnamed law enforcement officials from the San Marcos Police Department and San Marcos City Marshal’s Department who failed to take reasonable steps to prevent planned acts of violent political intimidation. For at least ninety minutes, the Trump Train pursued and terrorized Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs on the bus tried frantically to find help and safety. They called 911 to report the Trump Train’s activities. Fearing for themselves and others on the road, Plaintiffs requested police escorts…But in the City of San Marcos help never arrived. Defendant Stapp received at least 24 hours of advance notice of the Biden-Harris Campaign’s safety concerns…

In contrast to the response from other police departments, which provided escorts as requested—thereby deterring some of the Trump Train’s most aggressive and dangerous behavior—certain officers from the San Marcos Police Department said that they would not respond unless the Biden-Harris Campaign was “reporting a crime,” explaining: “we can’t help you.” Despite being told the bus was driving through San Marcos, and despite the fact that Plaintiffs had already tried calling 911, an officer from the San Marcos City Marshal’s Department made similar excuses, saying: “we don’t know if the bus is in our jurisdiction” and “call 911 if there’s a problem.”

Now, we have new damning details about law enforcement’s refusal to help:

Transcribed 911 audio recordings and documents that reveal behind-the-scenes communications among law enforcement and dispatchers were included in the amended lawsuit, filed late Friday…

In one transcribed recording, Matthew Daenzer, a San Marcos police corporal on duty the day of the incident, refused to provide an escort when recommended by another jurisdiction.

“No, we’re not going to do it,” Daenzer told a 911 dispatcher, according to the amended filing. “We will ‘close patrol’ that, but we’re not going to escort a bus.”

The amended filing also states that in those audio recordings, law enforcement officers “privately laughed” and “joked about the victims and their distress.”

…According to the filing, plaintiffs argue a text message between some of the San Marcos police officers who refused to provide assistance “poked fun at the attack.”

To support that claim, the lawsuit refers to a group text message among San Marcos officers, including [San Marcos assistant police chief Brandon] Winkenwerder, in which an unidentified person appears to refer to Democrats who drove through town as a derogatory slang term for someone who is mentally disabled [“tards”].

Rittenhouse trial

The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, charged with murder, began yesterday in a charged atmosphere. Rittenhouse shot and killed two men with an AR-15 style rifle last summer during racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

As a reminder, the protests were sparked by the police killing of George Floyd and, in Kenosha, the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse traveled from his home state of Illinois to Kenosha with his rifle to join a self-styled “Kenosha Gaurd,” which posted an invite on Facebook for “patriots” to defend Kenosha from “evil thugs.”

During the chaos, Rittenhouse moved down the street toward Car Source’s second mechanic shop, where rioters had been smashing car windows. He crossed paths with the angry bald man, who chased him into the shop’s parking area. The man now wore his T-shirt as a head wrap and face mask, leaving his torso bare. Screaming “Fuck you!,” he threw his plastic bag at Rittenhouse’s back. Rittenhouse, holding his rifle, reached some parked cars just as a protester fired a warning shot into the sky. Rittenhouse whirled; the bald man lunged; Rittenhouse fired, four times. The man fell in front of a Buick, wounded in the groin, back, thigh, hand, and head…

Amid the sound of more gunfire, he didn’t stoop to check on the injured man or offer his first-aid kit. “Call 911!” McGinniss told him. Rittenhouse called a friend instead. Sprinting out of the parking lot, he said, “I just shot somebody!”

Demonstrators were yelling: “What’d he do?” “Shot someone!” “Cranium that boy!” Rittenhouse ran down the street toward the whirring lights of police vehicles. To those who had heard only the gunfire and the shouting, he must have resembled a mass shooter: they tend to be heavily armed, white, and male.

A demonstrator ran up behind Rittenhouse and smacked him in the head. When Rittenhouse tripped and fell, another man executed a flying kick; Rittenhouse fired twice, from the ground, and missed. Another demonstrator whacked him in the neck with the edge of a skateboard and tried to grab his rifle; Rittenhouse shot him in the heart. A third demonstrator approached with a handgun; Rittenhouse shot him in the arm, nearly blowing it off.

Video of the events that night is widely available. Rittenhouse tried to flag down armored police vehicles but they told him to leave, despite the rifle around his chest and bystanders yelling that he just shot people.

Fast forward to today, Rittenhouse faces six criminal counts, including first-degree intentional homicide, and has pleaded not guilty. The jury selection process whittled 150 people down to 20; 12 jurors and eight alternates. The 20 consist of 11 women and nine men. Only one is a person of color but the court has not specified if they are a juror or alternate.

The judge

The judge overseeing the trial is Bruce Schroeder, the longest-serving circuit court judge in Wisconsin. He was appointed in 1983 by Gov. Anthony Earl, a Democrat, and has been re-elected to the Kenosha County Circuit Court every six years. Schroeder started off the case by denying the prosecution’s request to issue a new arrest warrant for Rittenhouse and raise his bail in February 2021, after Rittenhouse violated his bail by failing to update his address.

[Schroeder] ordered Rittenhouse attorney Mark Richards to turn over Rittenhouse’s current physical address but said it would be sealed to the public and only he and the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department would have access to it.

The judge refused to give [Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas] Binger the address, saying he didn’t want more violence in Kenosha. The move — and the comment — left Binger flabbergasted.

“I hope you’re not suggesting sharing this with our office would lead to further violence,” Binger said. “We are not the public. We are the prosecuting agency. I have never heard of a situation where the information has been withheld from my office.”

Schroeder said the sheriff could handle any further bail violations. Binger countered that Rittenhouse doesn’t live in Kenosha County so the sheriff can’t touch him. Schroeder cut Binger off in mid-sentence and ended the hearing.

Schroeder, a white man in his 70s, is unfamiliar with the alt-right:

He has also acknowledged that some of the topics raised in pretrial hearings are new to him. Until this case, Judge Schroeder said in a hearing, he had never heard of the Proud Boys, a far-right group that offered support to Mr. Rittenhouse after the Kenosha shootings, and was unfamiliar with the “O.K.” hand sign as a gesture that has been co-opted by white supremacists.

Most controversially, Schroeder ruled that the men shot by Rittenhouse can be called “looters” or “rioters” if his defense team can prove they took part in such activities, but prohibited the prosecution from calling them “victims.”

On Monday, Schroeder reiterated his reportedly long-held policy against allowing the word “victim” in his criminal trials until there is a conviction. He said the word is “loaded” with prejudgment.

Binger, the prosecutor, argued that the words “rioters,” “looters” and “arsonists” are “loaded, if not more loaded,” than “victim.”

“You’ve not let me call someone a victim when it was proven,” he told Schroeder.

Opening Statements

The prosecution’s opening statement painted Rittenhouse as the initial aggressor whose unreasonable actions set in motion the murder of two men and wounding of a third:

“Out of the hundreds of people that came to Kenosha during that week, the hundreds of people that were out on the streets that week, the evidence will show that the only person who killed anyone was the defendant, Kyle Rittenhouse,” Thomas Binger, a Kenosha County assistant district attorney, told the jury multiple times during his presentation… Binger told the jurors that the fatal face-off started minutes earlier when Rittenhouse chased an unarmed protester, Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and shot him four times, including a fatal shot to the back, in a used car lot Rittenhouse claimed to have been protecting…

It was only Rittenhouse, Binger said, who chose to confront Rosenbaum, pursuing him down the road toward a used car lot. “The shot that killed Mr. Rosenbaum was a shot to the back. This occurred after the defendant chased down Mr. Rosenbaum and confronted him while wielding that AR-15,” Binger said.

The defense, on the other hand, argued that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense:

“Ultimately, what this case will come down to — it isn’t a whodunit or when-did-it-happen or anything like that. It is: Was Kyle Rittenhouse’s actions privileged under the law of self-defense?” Richards told the jury.

Each person Rittenhouse encountered that night was dangerous and armed with a potentially deadly weapon, Richards said as he showed jurors a series of photographs. One photo showed Rosenbaum setting something on fire, while another showed two people Rosenbaum was with that night, one holding a gun and the other holding a heavy flashlight. A third image, a video still, showed Grosskreutz reaching into a backpack to pull out a gun, Richards said.

As he displayed a photo of Anthony Huber with his skateboard, Richards said that Huber would later swing the skateboard at Rittenhouse’s head in an attempt “to separate the head from the body” — a statement Binger objected to, but the judge overruled.

“Kyle Rittenhouse protected himself, protected his firearm so it couldn’t be taken and used against him or other people, from Mr. Rosenbaum who’d made threats to kill, and the other individuals who didn’t see that shooting, attacked him in the street like an animal,” Richards said.