WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) — The father of a man charged in a deadly Fourth of July parade shooting in suburban Chicago pleaded guilty to seven misdemeanors Monday in a case that centered on how his son obtained a gun license.
Robert Crimo Jr. entered the plea as his trial was about to start in Lake County court, in Waukegan, Illinois. He was immediately sentenced by Judge George Strickland to 60 days in jail, starting next week, and 100 hours of community service.
Crimo Jr. had been charged with seven felony counts of reckless conduct — one for each person his son, Robert Crimo III, is accused of killing in Highland Park on Independence Day 2022.
In 2019, at age 19, Crimo III was too young to seek his own gun license, but he could apply with the sponsorship of a parent or guardian. His father agreed, even though just months earlier a relative reported to police that Crimo III had a collection of knives and had threatened to “kill everyone.”
State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart told the judge that Crimo Jr. also was aware that his son had expressed suicidal thoughts.
“It was 2 1/2 years later,” the prosecutor told reporters, referring to the time between the gun application and the mass shooting, “but he was still reckless — he was criminally reckless — the moment he submitted that affidavit.”
Rinehart said a plea deal with jail time was a good result.
“We’ve laid down a marker to other prosecutors, to other police in this country, to other parents, that they must be held accountable,” he said. “The risk of potentially losing this innovative prosecution, and not putting down any marker, was too great for our trial team.”
Defense attorney George Gomez said Crimo Jr. pleaded guilty to misdemeanor versions of reckless conduct to spare the Highland Park community from reliving “these tragic events.”
Crimo Jr. also was concerned about his son’s ability to get a fair trial if details and evidence from the shooting were widely aired, Gomez said.
“Mr. Crimo ultimately did not want his family to be more torn apart upon the public stage than it already is,” Gomez said.
Anti-gun violence advocates say they are encouraged that police and prosecutors are investigating anyone who may have contributed to the attack. But legal experts say criminal liability can be hard to prove against a shooter’s parent or guardian. More often, they face civil lawsuits where legal standards of proof are less stringent.
There are exceptions. In Michigan, the parents of a teenager who killed four students at Oxford High School are facing involuntary manslaughter charges. James and Jennifer Crumbley are accused of making a gun accessible to Ethan Crumbley at home and ignoring his mental health needs.
“Any parent who is reckless in these decisions isn’t going to have any idea when that ticking time bomb will go off. … This was a matter of years, and we have held him responsible, even over that period of years,” Rinehart said of Crimo Jr.
Crimo III, meanwhile, still faces 21 first-degree murder counts, 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery. Prosecutors say he admitted he was the gunman when he was arrested hours after the shooting in Highland Park. No trial date has been set.
Savage is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
Associated Press writer Ed White in Detroit contributed.