A judge on Saturday set bond at US$50,000 for the father of an Illinois man charged with killing seven people at a July 4 parade who is accused of helping his son get a gun licence years before the shooting on a suburban Chicago main street.
Robert Crimo Jr., 58, looked sombre and tired in his first appearance before a judge since voluntarily surrendering to police Friday. His lawyer, George M. Gomez, told the judge Saturday that the father of three would be able to pay the required bond amount for his release.
Crimo, a rare case of a parent charged after a child is accused in a mass shooting, faces seven felony counts of reckless conduct — one count for each person fatally shot during the summertime parade. Each count carries a maximum six-year prison term.
At a brief 10-minute hearing, conducted via video link, Lake County Judge Jacquelyn Melius said she accepted an agreement between Crimo’s lawyer and prosecutors that bond be set at US$50,000, which was lower than the $500,000 bond that could have been imposed.
Gomez told the judge before she set bond that his client had been a business owner for over 30 years and had lifelong ties to the community of Highland Park, where the mass shooting occurred over the summer. Prosecutors did not oppose Crimo’s release on bond.
“Mr. Crimo is not a danger to the community. He is not a flight risk,” Gomez said, adding that Crimo had co-operated fully with authorities since the shooting.
Among the conditions of his release, the judge told Crimo, was that he turn in any gun licences, as well as any weapons at his home, within 24 hours of the hearing. Crimo currently lives in Highwood, a city that borders Highland Park.
Asked by the judge if he could hear the proceedings through his video link, Crimo said that he could — but he otherwise made no statements to the court.
Judge Melius set his next hearing for Jan. 12.
Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said Friday that charges against the father were based on Crimo sponsoring his son’s application for a gun licence in December 2019. His son was 19 years old at the time.
“Parents and guardians are in the best position to decide whether their teenagers should have a weapon,” Rinehart said. “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 have previously said the accused shooter, 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.”
Those reports came months before Crimo Jr. sponsored his son’s application.
Gomez, the Chicago-area attorney, called the charges against the father “baseless and unprecedented” in a written statement on Friday.
“This decision should alarm every single parent in the United States of America who according to the Lake County State’s Attorney knows exactly what is going on with their 19 year old adult children and can be held criminally liable for actions taken nearly three years later,” Gomez said.
Gomez said his client “continues to sympathize and feel terrible for the individuals and families who were injured and lost loved ones.” But the attorney called the charges “politically motivated and a distraction from the real change that needs to happen in this country.”
A grand jury in July indicted Robert Crimo III 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 on a beloved holiday event in Highland Park.
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 last year filed involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents of a teen accused of fatally shooting four students at his high school. A January trial date in that case has been delayed while the state appeals court considers an appeal by the parents.
Authorities have previously said that Illinois State Police reviewed Crimo III’s December 2019 gun licence 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 behaviour that would disqualify him.
But following the parade shooting, public records showed that Crimo III attempted suicide by machete in April 2019, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press that noted a “history of attempts.”
In September 2019, police received a report from a family member that Crimo III had a collection of knives and had threatened to “kill everyone.”
Both Crimo III and his mother disputed the threat of violence at the time. Police have said father Robert Crimo Jr. later told investigators the knives belonged to him, and authorities returned them.
Robert Crimo Jr. has shown up at several pretrial hearings for his son this year, nodding in greeting when his son entered the courtroom shackled and flanked by guards. The father has been a familiar face around Highland Park, where he was once a mayoral candidate and was well known for operating convenience stores.
In media interviews after the shooting, Robert Crimo Jr. had said he did not expect to face charges and did not believe he did anything wrong by helping his son get a gun licence through the state’s established process.