Highland Park, Illinois, 4th of July parade, shooting suspect Robert Crimo III rejects plea deal during hearing

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

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

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

Highland Park victims’ families speak out after suspect rejects plea deal

Family members of Highland Park shooting victims are speaking out after the suspect rejected a plea deal.

An attorney representing survivors of the Highland Park parade shooting and the 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 July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park two years ago. Our customers are fiercely committed to holding him accountable and will not be shaken by his efforts to manipulate the process.

“All I wanted to do was grieve for my mother, knowing he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison,” said Leah Sonheim, whose mother was killed in the parade shooting.

“My father loved his family and we stuck together through this ordeal and we will continue to do so,” 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 ensured he would spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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

His defense attorneys then began whispering to him, then the judge gave them a short break to talk. A few minutes later they returned and Crimo denied their request.

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

Lake County SA speaks out after plea deal rejected

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

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

“We have worked with victims and survivors, supporting them over the past few days and weeks to prepare for today,” Rinehart said. “Our trial team and our team of victim support professionals met with them for as long as necessary. This was an unusual procedure but necessary in light of what happened today. We met with them for as long as they need. We are available for them, not only for the rest of the day, but until this goes to trial. We will continue to support them.

Why would Crimo reject a plea deal at the last minute?

ABC7 legal analyst Gil Soffer discusses developments in the Highland Park shooting case.

Crimo’s father left the court without comment. He had spoken to his son by phone on Tuesday, but when asked if he knew his son’s reasons for changing his mind, he continued to make no comment.

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

This new development is a blow to families who were hoping to close this chapter before the two-year anniversary of filming, which will take place in about a week.

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

“This is a calculated attempt on his part to perpetuate the suffering our customers are experiencing,” Romanucci said. “There are a lot of lawyers here today representing clients and we know, we also feel the pain that they are going through, the difficulty of what is happening and it is absolutely disgusting. »

In the meantime, Crimo will be judged as originally planned in February 2025.

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