Highland Park parade shooting suspect Robert Crimo III rejects plea deal

7 killed, dozens wounded in July 4, 2022 Highland Park parade shooting

Thursday, June 27, 2024
Accused Highland Park mass shooter does about-face, rejects plea deal
Highland Park July 4th parade shooting suspect Robert Crimo III surprised many in court and declined a plea deal to change his plea to guilty Wednesday.

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (WLS) -- Highland Park Fourth of July parade shooting suspect Robert Crimo III rejected a plea deal and declined to change his plea at a hearing Wednesday.

The courtroom was packed with survivors and victims' families, many of whom planned to give victim impact statements in court after an expected guilty plea was entered, but they never got the chance.

ABC7 Chicago is now streaming 24/7. Click here to watch

The 23-year-old sat calmly in court, in a wheelchair for reasons unknown, while the judge asked if he agreed to plead guilty to the murders of seven people and 48 counts of aggravated assault with a firearm. He said no, much to the surprise of those assembled who had been hoping for closure.

Family of Highland Park victims speak after suspect rejects plea deal

Family members of Highland Park shooting victims speak after the suspect rejected a plea deal.

An attorney representing the Highland Park parade shooting survivors and victims' families released a statement, saying in part, "Today's calculated decision by Robert Crimo III to reject a plea deal in open court was an intentional effort to continue his personal reign of terror and to retraumatize those who were injured or lost loved ones in the Highland Park Fourth of July mass shooting two years ago. Our clients are fiercely committed to holding him accountable and will not be shaken by his efforts to manipulate the process."

"All I wanted was to fully grieve my mom, knowing he was going to spend the rest of his life in jail," said Leah Sundheim, whose mother was killed in the parade shooting.

"My Dad loved his family and we stuck together through this and we're gonna keep sticking together," said Karina Mendez, whose father was killed in the parade shooting.

The deal would have dropped about half of the 117 charges against Crimo, but would have ensured he spent the rest of his natural life in prison without the possibility of parole.

When the judge asked Crimo if those terms were what he agreed to, he remained silent, shrugged his shoulders and looked at the people sitting in the courtroom behind him.

His defense attorneys then started whispering to him and then the judge allowed them a short recess to discuss. Minutes later they returned and Crimo rejected the plea.

"This is definitely not the outcome we wanted to see," said survivor Ashbey Beasley. "It's devastating, it's heartbreaking. It's extremely disappointing."

Crimo is accused of killing seven people and injuring dozens more at a Fourth of July Parade in Highland Park in 2022.

Lake County SA speaks after plea deal rejected

Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart reacts to Robert Crimo III rejecting a plea deal in the Highland Park shooting.

Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart spoke after the hearing.

"We have been working with the victims and survivors, supporting the victims and survivors over the last several days and weeks preparing for today," Rinehart said. "Our trial team and our team of victim support professionals met with them for as long as they needed to. That was an unusual procedure but necessary in light of what happened today. We met with them as long as they needed to. We are available for them not only throughout the rest of the day but until this goes to trial. We will continue to support them. We will be ready for trial."

Why would Crimo reject plea deal at last minute?

ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer discusses the developments in the Highland Park shooting case.

Crimo's father left court without any comment. He had spoken to his son by phone on Tuesday but when asked if he knew what his son's reasons were for changing his mind, he continued to say no comment.

"Enough harm has been done and it's extremely unnerving that somebody can be this cruel," Beasley said.

Crimo III has changed his mind in the past. At one point he demanded a speedy trial, got rid of his attorneys and wanted to represent himself. He changed his mind.

This new development is a huge blow to the families who had expected to close this chapter before the two-year mark of the shooting which is about a week away.

Attorney Antonio Romanucci who represents some of the victims of the shooting called it pure evil.

"This was a calculated effort on his part to continue the suffering that our clients are going through," Romanucci said. "There are many attorneys here today representing clients and we know, we feel also the suffering they are going through, the hardship of what's happening and it's absolutely disgusting."

Meanwhile, Crimo will now go on trial as originally planned in February 2025.

"Highland Park is a strong community and each victim and each survivor and every family member wants to see justice and we will see justice," said Beasley.

The next hearing in the case is set for late August.