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The father of a mass shooting suspect stands trial for helping him get a gun license

Robert E. Crimo Jr., left, listens Friday to his attorney George Gomez while he speaks to Judge George D. Strickland during an appearance at the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, Ill.
Nam Y. Huh
/
AP
Robert E. Crimo Jr., left, listens Friday to his attorney George Gomez while he speaks to Judge George D. Strickland during an appearance at the Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, Ill.

WAUKEGAN, Ill. — The father of a man charged in a deadly Fourth of July parade shooting in suburban Chicago will stand trial starting Monday accused of helping his teenage son obtain a gun license even after he had threatened violence.

Robert Crimo Jr. is charged with seven counts of reckless conduct — one for each person his son, Robert Crimo III, is accused of killing in Highland Park on Independence Day last year. Each count carries a maximum three-year prison term.

In 2019, at the age of 19, Crimo III was too young to apply for his own gun license, but he could apply with the sponsorship of a parent or guardian. His father sponsored his application, even though just months earlier a relative reported to police that Crimo III had a collection of knives and had threatened to "kill everyone."

Crimo Jr. was arrested in December 2022, and pleaded not guilty this year to seven counts of reckless conduct. He waived his right to a jury trial, meaning Judge George Strickland will hear evidence and issue a verdict.

Defense attorney George Gomez has called the charges against Crimo Jr. "baseless and unprecedented."

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.

But there are exceptions. In Michigan, a prosecutor charged the parents of a then-15-year-old boy with involuntary manslaughter in December 2021 after their son was charged in the fatal shooting of four students at his high school. They face trial Jan. 23. Their son pleaded guilty to murder and terrorism charges and is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 8.

Strickland has said he will allow Crimo III's statement to police after his arrest as evidence, and both sides are expected to cite the transcript at Crimo Jr.'s trial. Video of the interrogation — which the judge has viewed — will not be shown, to protect the suspected gunman's right to a fair trial.

Crimo III will neither attend nor testify at his father's trial to avoid incriminating himself, his lawyer, Gregory Ticsay, has said.

The son faces 21 first-degree murder counts, 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery. Potential evidence — prosecutors say Crimo III admitted he was the gunman when he was arrested hours after the shooting — is voluminous. No trial date has been set in his case.

Attorneys said they expect the trial to last about four days. It was unclear how quickly the judge will rule.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
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