Father of Highland Park shooting suspect pleads guilty to misdemeanor reckless conduct charges in deal with prosecutors

The father of the man accused of killing seven people and wounding dozens more at a 2022 Fourth of July parade in Illinois pleaded guilty to seven counts of misdemeanor reckless conduct as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Robert Crimo Jr. had been set to face a bench trial Monday on seven felony counts of reckless conduct. As part of the deal reached with prosecutors, he will be on probation for two years, serve 60 days in jail and complete 100 hours of community service. He is expected to report to jail to begin serving his sentence on November 15.

Prosecutors said Crimo Jr. was “criminally reckless” when he signed his son’s application for an Illinois Firearm Owners Identification card nearly three years before the massacre in Highland Park. The card is required for gun purchases in Illinois and people under 21 need a guardian to sign the application.

The guilty plea could set a precedent for how far prosecutors can go in holding the parents of mass shooting suspects legally responsible for the actions of their children. Crimo’s son, Robert “Bobby” E. Crimo III, who was 21 at the time of the Highland Park shooting, faces charges of first-degree murder.

Prosecutors say Crimo III fired more than 70 rounds with a rifle from a rooftop during the holiday parade, killing seven people. He has pleaded not guilty to 117 criminal charges, including 21 counts of first-degree murder.

Crimo Jr.’s reckless conduct case had gone to trial, “potential key evidence would be disclosed to the public, jeopardizing his son’s fair right to trial,” said attorney, George Gomez.

As part of his plea deal, Crimo Jr. has agreed to testify if called at his son’s criminal trial, prosecutors said. The date for that trial has not been set.

“Additionally, it appeared that as we got closer to trial, that the state’s strategy required pitting Mr. Crimo’s family against each other. Mr. Crimo ultimately did not want his family to be more torn apart on the public stage than it already is,” Gomez said. He added his client did not want the Highland Park community to have to relive the shootings through a public trial.

Crimo Jr. sponsored his son’s gun license application in 2019, months after local police responded to reports of concerning behavior on the part of the younger Crimo, according to police reports.

Robert E. Crimo III, left, appears and his attorneys Gregory Ticsay, assistant public defender for Lake County, center, talks with Anton Trizna before Judge Victoria A. Rossetti at a hearing at the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, Illinois. - Nam Y. Huh/Pool/AP/FILE
Robert E. Crimo III, left, appears and his attorneys Gregory Ticsay, assistant public defender for Lake County, center, talks with Anton Trizna before Judge Victoria A. Rossetti at a hearing at the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, Illinois. - Nam Y. Huh/Pool/AP/FILE

Officers performed a welfare check on Crimo III in April 2019, after he “attempted to commit suicide by machete,” a police report states. An attorney for his parents previously disputed details of the incidents described in police reports.

Police returned to the home in September 2019, after a family member reported Crimo III said he was going to kill everyone, directing the threat at those in his home, according to a police report. Officers confiscated several knives from Crimo III’s closet. His father retrieved them from the police station later that day, per the report.

Crimo III bought five guns, including two rifles, after the September visit from police, Chris Covelli, a spokesperson for the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, previously said. The high-powered rifle Crimo III is accused of using to fire on the parade crowd from a rooftop across the street was purchased legally, police said.

“Parents and guardians are in the best position to decide whether their teenager should have a weapon. They are the first line of defense. In this case, that system failed when Robert Crimo Jr. sponsored his son,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart previously said. “He knew what he knew, and he signed the form anyway.”

It’s unclear how well that argument would have held up in court, said Stephen Gutowski, CNN contributor and founder of The Reload, an independent firearms-focused publication.

“Our laws are generally not designed to hold other people accountable for someone else’s crimes unless they were explicitly involved.” Gutowski said. “Even in these more egregious cases, it’s a heavy lift for prosecutors to meet that sort of burden, but they now seem more willing to try.”

Prosecuting the parents of suspects

Crimo Jr. isn’t the first parent of a mass shooting suspect to face charges in connection with their children’s alleged actions.

The parents of Oxford High School shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley are facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter for buying their son the gun prosecutors say he used to kill four of his classmates in the mass shooting. Ethan Crumbley has pleaded guilty to murder and terrorism charges in connection with the shooting.

His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, have argued they should not be held responsible for their son’s actions. In a written opinion filed in March, a panel of judges for Michigan’s appellate court said the Crumbleys were a unique case.

“We share defendants’ concern about the potential for this decision to be applied in the future to parents whose situation viz-a-viz their child’s intentional conduct is not as closely tied together, and/or the warning signs and evidence were not as substantial as they are here,” wrote the panel.

Attorneys representing survivors and a family member of one of the victims who died in the racist mass shooting in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store last year are suing the shooter’s parents. They argue the parents of then-18-year-old Payton S. Gendron failed to intervene or limit their son’s access to firearms despite knowing about his mental health problems.

Gendron was sentenced to life in prison in February for killing 10 people in the supermarket.

Lauren del Valle, Zoe Sottile and Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.

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