Your NPR news source
Robert Crimo III walking into courtroom with two police officers while two lawyers sit at desk

Robert E. Crimo III, is escorted into a courtroom at the Lake County Courthouse Monday. Crimo requested to represent himself in his trial, set for February 2024.

Nam Y. Huh

Highland Park massacre suspect to represent himself in trial now set for February

The Highland Park massacre suspect will represent himself in his criminal trial, which a judge on Monday set for February, a year sooner than lawyers were preparing for.

Robert Crimo III asked a Lake County judge to allow him to proceed without the aid of his assistant public defenders and invoked his right to a speedy trial. He is accused of killing seven people and wounding dozens more at a Fourth of July parade in 2022.

Judge Victoria Rossetti questioned Crimo’s request for several minutes, asking if he understood the consequences of the charges and that he had no courtroom experience.

“Knowing these potential penalties, do you still want to proceed without an attorney?” the judge asked.

Crimo replied with a curt “Yes.”

Prosecutors now have a little over two months to prepare for a complicated trial that Rossetti said could last four to six weeks, with jury selection that could take “seven to 10 days, if not more.”

It’s unclear why Crimo chose to waive his right to legal representation.

But after doing so, his first request was to ask for a speedy trial, which by state law must be set within 120 days of the request. That’s a year sooner than Rossetti said the defense and prosecution had discussed in a meeting earlier this month.

Rossetti set the trial for Feb. 26, 2024.

His former lawyers, Gregory Ticsay and Anton Trizna, declined to comment.

Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart declined to comment on Crimo’s choice to represent himself. But he said his office is prepared for the trial, despite the shortened time for preparation.

“The prosecutors on this case have been working tirelessly since July 4, 2022, and will be ready for trial on the set date.” Rinehart said in a statement.

Crimo, 23, has pleaded not guilty to 117 felony counts of allegedly firing an assault rifle at paradegoers from a rooftop at Central Avenue and Second Street in north suburban Highland Park. He will receive a life sentence if convicted of just two of the 21 murder counts.

In Crimo’s last hearing in September, the judge delayed setting a trial date while lawyers continued to gather evidence. Prosecutors have said they’ve collected more than 10,000 pages of evidence for the trial.

Crimo has remained mostly silent in his previous court hearings in the year and a half since he was charged, leaving the talking to his lawyers.

Crimo’s only other public statement includes a leaked jail video call from September, in which he baselessly alleges that the attack was staged by the FBI.

Crimo on Monday wore a red jail shirt, different from the standard blue jumpsuit, because he’s been serving time in a maximum-security part of the jail after verbally abusing an officer.

Crimo “was disrespectful and verbally threatened” a correctional officer on Nov. 6 during a routine inspection of his cell, Lake County Sheriff Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said.

Crimo was immediately transferred to the jail’s “administrative segregation unit,” where he’ll stay until Jan. 4 with good behavior, Covelli said.

He remains jailed in Lake County Jail, where his father is also being held.

Crimo’s father pleaded guilty last month to charges of reckless conduct and began serving a two-month jail sentence. In his plea deal, Robert Crimo Jr. admitted that he was reckless when he signed his son’s gun ownership card application even though he knew his then underage son had made homicidal and suicidal statements. The gun ownership card allowed the son to buy assault weapons later allegedly used in the parade attack.

The father told reporters he accepted the plea in part to avoid “jeopardizing his son’s fair right to a trial.”

The father reported to prison on Nov. 15 wearing a T-shirt reading, “I’m a political pawn.” A judge reprimanded him for breaking court rules and threatened him with contempt of court if he broke the rules again.

The younger Crimo is expected back in court Jan. 10.

The Latest
Five lawsuits filed accuse the state police of having negligently approved Robert E. Crimo III’s gun ownership application in 2019 even though the Highland Park police issued a “clear and present danger” alert against him months earlier.
Inspector General Deborah Witzburg wanted to bar David Brown from being rehired after he refused to cooperate with an investigation linked to a drug bust involving a police chief’s car. Police officials rebuffed the request.
Anthony Driver, president of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, said the referral to Inspector General Deborah Witzburg was based on ‘information from multiple knowledgeable sources that raised serious concerns’ about the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
Also facing several criminal charges is Sameer Suhail, owner of a medical supply company, who’s accused of participating in the fraud along with ex-CFO Anosh Ahmed and Loretto’s then-chief transformation officer, Heather Bergdahl.
Newly released records provide the clearest picture of last month’s attack on the Cook County state’s attorney. They also show that her office was closely involved in the investigation and the decision to bring serious charges in the case.