CHICAGO – The father of a man charged with fatally shooting seven people at a Fourth of July parade in suburban Chicago entered a not guilty plea on Thursday to charges that he helped his son obtain a gun license three years before the attack.
Robert Crimo Jr.'s not guilty plea at a county courthouse in Waukegan, north of Highland Park where the shooting happened last year, came a day after a grand jury indicted the 58-year-old on seven counts of reckless conduct — one count for each person killed.
Each count carries a maximum 3-year prison term.
Crimo, who is free on bail, sat at a defense table during his brief arraignment tieless and in a gray suit, occasionally nodding his head as Judge George Strickland spoke and read the indictment, which names each victim killed. The next court date was set for April 4.
Prosecutors have said the father helped his son, Robert Crimo III, obtain a gun license years before the shooting, even though the then-19-year-old had threatened violence.
Robert Crimo Jr. was arrested in December, also on seven felony counts of reckless conduct, one for each person killed. The longtime resident and well-known figure in Highland Park was released after his arrest on a $50,000 bond.
In a brief statement released by his office Wednesday, Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said the grand jury agreed the case against the father should move forward.
“Parents who help their kids get weapons of war are morally and legally responsible when those kids hurt others with those weapons," Rinehart said.
George M. Gomez, the father’s Chicago-area attorney, has previously called the accusations against his client “baseless and unprecedented.”
Rinehart has said the accusations against the father are based on his sponsorship of his son’s application for a gun license in December 2019. Authorities say Robert Crimo III attempted suicide by machete in April 2019 and in September 2019 was accused by a family member of making threats to “kill everyone.”
“Parents and guardians are in the best position to decide whether their teenagers should have a weapon,” Rinehart said after the father's arrest. “In this case, the system failed when Robert Crimo Jr. sponsored his son. He knew what he knew and he signed the form anyway.”
Authorities say Illinois State Police reviewed the son’s gun license application and found no reason to deny it because he had no arrests, no criminal record, no serious mental health problems, no orders of protection and no other behavior that would disqualify him.
Legal experts have said it's rare for an accused shooter's parent or guardian to face charges — in part because it's difficult to prove such charges.
In one notable exception, a Michigan prosecutor in 2021 filed involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents of a teen accused of fatally shooting four students at his high school. A trial date was delayed while the state appeals court considers an appeal.
A grand jury indicted Robert Crimo III in July on 21 first-degree murder counts, 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery, representing the seven people killed and dozens wounded in the attack at the holiday parade in Highland Park.
Robert Crimo Jr. has shown up at several of his son's pretrial hearings, nodding in greeting when his son entered the courtroom shackled and flanked by guards. The father is a familiar face around Highland Park, where he was once a mayoral candidate and operated convenience stores.
Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at @mtarm.