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Robert E. Crimo Jr., right talks as he appears before Judge George D. Strickland at the Lake County Courthouse, Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in Waukegan, Ill.

Robert E. Crimo Jr., right talks as he appears before Judge George D. Strickland at the Lake County Courthouse, Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in Waukegan, Ill.

Nam Y. Huh

Father of Highland Park parade shooting suspect pleads guilty to reckless conduct, gets 60 days in jail

The father of the Highland Park parade massacre suspect was ordered to serve 60 days in jail after pleading guilty Monday to misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct — a plea his lawyer said was made in part to avoid “jeopardizing his son’s fair right to a trial.”

Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said the guilty plea will serve as a “beacon” for prosecutors across the country to hold parents accountable for the actions of their children.

Prosecutors rarely charge parents of accused mass shooters — and the case against Robert Crimo Jr. had no direct precedent.

“We’ve laid down a marker to other prosecutors, to other police in this country, to other parents, that they must be held accountable,” said Rinehart, who brought the charges last December.

Rinehart said the plea brings “some closure” to the father’s role in the shooting.

“We can begin to write the history of the July 4 tragedy,” he said. “There are a lot of arguments about contested truths [in society], but every one of you here have heard him take responsibility for this.”

Crimo Jr. was set to go to trial Monday as prosecutors sought to prove he recklessly signed the gun ownership card application for his son in 2019 when his son was too young to do so himself.

Crimo Jr. signed it despite knowing his son had threatened an unrelated mass shooting a few years before allegedly opening fire from a rooftop in Highland Park on July 4, 2022, killing seven people and wounding 48 others, prosecutors said.

The shooting suspect was 19 when he received the Firearm Owner’s Identification card, two years short of the age at which he could have received it without a parent or guardian’s signature.

Crimo Jr. accepted a last-minute plea deal that spares him from a potential three-year sentence had he been found guilty of felony reckless conduct charges.

Judge George Strickland accepted the plea deal for the lesser charges, which also requires Crimo Jr. to serve two years of probation, perform 100 hours of community service and give up his gun ownership card and surrender any weapons.

The defendant’s son, Robert Crimo III, is accused of buying weapons with the gun card and later opening fire in last year’s massacre.

Crimo Jr. was ordered to report to jail on Nov. 15.

The bench trial could have been the public’s first look at much of the evidence against the accused shooter.

Prosecutors said they were prepared to read transcripts of Crimo III’s 7 1/2-hour police interrogation in which he allegedly admits to carrying out the Highland Park parade shooting. Prosecutors were also prepared to show autopsy records of victims and call witnesses who were expected to testify the father knew his son should not have had access to firearms.

One witness, prosecutors said, would testify he heard Crimo III threaten a mass shooting at a Christian day camp when the boy was a freshman.

The elder Crimo accepted the plea deal to give a fairer trial to his son, who remains jailed on 117 felony counts, Crimo Jr.’s attorney said.

Holding a trial “would mean that the potential key evidence would be disclosed to the public, jeopardizing his son’s fair right to a trial,” attorney George Gomez told reporters.

The son’s trial date has not been set.

Gomez also accused prosecutors of “pitting Mr. Crimo’s family against each other” as the trial grew near. He said Crimo Jr. sought to spare his family from being further torn apart.

Prosecutors had planned to call Crimo III’s younger brother, Sam, as a witness. Sam Crimo had told a therapist about his older brother in 2019, triggering two well-being checks by Highland Park police to their home in which Crimo III allegedly expressed violent and suicidal thoughts, prosecutors said.

Crimo Jr. also accepted the plea deal to spare the Highland Park public from reliving the trauma of the massacre, his attorney said.

“The last thing Mr. Crimo wants is the Highland Park community to relive these tragic events and make a public spectacle of this,” Gomez said.

Rinehart said he spoke with 10 victims while working out the plea deal. Many of them were satisfied with the jail time Crimo Jr. was given.

“The risk of potentially losing in this innovative prosecution and not putting down any marker was too great for our trial team,” Rinehart said.

If the judge had found any break in the causation chain to prove recklessness — from when the father signed the gun card in 2019 to when the shooting happened in 2022 — the case would be lost, he said.

“Holding a parent responsible and seeing incarceration and probation ... was so important,” Rinehart said.

Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said the “innovative, creative prosecution” sends a message to parents that they can be held accountable for the actions of family members.

In this case, Kelly said, the family knew Crimo III should not have had access to firearms, unlike the police. As part of Crimo Jr.’s plea, he admitted he had thwarted police officers by claiming his son’s knives were his own in a 2019 well-being check. That encounter could have set off the state’s red-flag laws and prevented Crimo III from having a firearm, Kelly said.

State Rep. Bob Morgan, who represents Highland Park, said he’s spoken with parade victims who recognize the guilty plea is “just a small step but a step toward justice.”

Attorney Antonio Romanucci, part of a legal team representing victims of the shooting and their families, said the sentence was “incredibly significant.”

“[The sentence] sends a clear and powerful message to parents about staying very in tune with their children and being acutely aware of their responsibility to the community if you believe your children may be a danger to other people,” he wrote in a statement to the Sun-Times.

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