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Father of accused Highland Park shooter pleads guilty to reckless conduct charges

Father of Highland Park mass shooting suspect pleads guilty to reckless conduct
Father of Highland Park mass shooting suspect pleads guilty to reckless conduct 02:21

CHICAGO (CBS)-- Just as the trial for the father of the accused Highland Park shooter was set to begin on Monday, he agreed to a plea deal to several misdemeanor charges, and will serve a 60-day jail sentence.

Robert Crimo Jr. had been set to face trial starting Monday on seven felony counts of reckless conduct, as prosecutors sought to prove he should have known his son was a danger to the public when he applied for a Firearm Ownership Identification card. Robert Crimo III was only 19 at the time, and needed a parent to sign his application.

As Crimo Jr.'s trial was about to start on Monday, Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart announced he had agreed instead to a plea deal.

Crimo pleaded guilty to seven misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct, in exchange for a sentence of 60 days in jail and 2 years probation. He must also perform 100 hours of community service, surrender his own FOID card, and give up any weapons he might own. Crimo Jr. also agreed not to sponsor any minors for FOID cards in the future.

Lake County prosecutors have argued Robert Crimo Jr. knew his son had "violent ideations" before signing his FOID card application in 2019. 

This case against Crimo Jr. is rare. Charges are rarely filed against parents of accused mass shooters. Prosecutors said Crimo Jr.'s conviction for helping his son get a gun permit, despite knowing of his past threats, sets a precedent for these cases moving forward.

"We hope that by holding this father accountable, and by sending him to jail, we are sending a powerful message to others," Rinehart said after Monday's hearing.

That message: parents are responsible for their decisions to allow their kids access to guns.

"You may not be the person pulling the trigger, you may not be the person with the firearm, but you could be held accountable for that conduct," said Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly.

Rinehart said, had the case gone to trial, witnesses would have testified that at the time Crimo Jr. signed his son's FOID card application, he was aware his son recently had sent suicidal text messages, that police had reports Crimo III had threatened his family, that police had received reports of Crimo III threatening to commit suicide, and that Crimo III "had expressed an interest in committing a mass shooting" in 2014 or 2015.

Under the plea deal, Crimo Jr. is admitting he was aware his son "was a substantial risk to others" when he signed Crimo III's FOID card application.

Crimo Jr. will surrender to the Lake County Jail on Nov. 15.

After Crimo Jr. pleaded guilty on Monday, his attorney said Crimo Jr. didn't want to risk jeopardizing his son's upcoming murder trial.

"As you all know, this matter was going to be tried first before his son's case was going to be tried. This would mean that the potential key evidence would be disclosed to the public, jeopardizing his son's fair right to trial. As a father, Mr. Crimo wanted to ensure that his son received a fair trial," attorney George Gomez said. "Mr. Crimo ultimately did not want his family to be more torn apart on the public stage than it already is."

For Highland Park shooting survivor Abby Kisicki, the 60-day sentence for Crimo Jr. is enough. She and her parents were at the July 4th parade last year during the mass shooting.

"I'm glad to see that, not only did [Crimo Jr.] admit guilt here, but I am glad that this is a precedent that is set now in stone, and there will not be a whole trial to have to watch," she said.

Crimo III's murder trial date is expected to be scheduled during a hearing in December. He has been indicted on a total of 117 counts, including 21 counts of first-degree murder - three counts for each person who died - along with 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery - one for each surviving victim who was struck by a bullet, bullet fragment, or shrapnel, according to Lake County prosecutors.  

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