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Illinois man charged in Fourth of July parade shooting rehires lawyers weeks after dismissing them

Jan 5, 2024, 10:16 AM

Robert E. Crimo III., listens to Judge Victoria A. Rossetti during a case management conference at ...

Robert E. Crimo III., listens to Judge Victoria A. Rossetti during a case management conference at the Lake County Courthouse Friday, Jan. 5, 2024, in Waukegan, Ill. A case management conference is scheduled for a suspect in a mass shooting that left seven people dead during a July 4 parade in Highland Park, Illinois. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, Pool)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, Pool)

WAUKEGAN, Ill. (AP) — The man charged with killing seven people at a Fourth of July parade in suburban Chicago asked to again be represented by public defenders after firing them last month and insisting on handling his own case.

Robert Crimo III is charged with 21 counts of first-degree murder — three counts for each person killed — as well as 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery. Dozens of people were wounded in the 2022 shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, including a 8-year-old who was left partially paralyzed.

Last month, 23-year-old Crimo told a judge he wished to represent himself at his trial, and asked to move his court date up by a year, to February of this year rather than next.

Lake County Judge Victoria Rossetti asked Crimo several times if he understood the possible penalties — including consecutive life sentences — if a jury finds him guilty, and then she granted both requests. In response to the judge’s questions, Crimo acknowledged he has no law degree and said his highest level of education is high school. Rossetti suggested he reconsider his choice to represent himself.

Crimo appeared in court on Friday for just a handful of minutes. The judge reminded him of his right to an attorney, and suggested he exercise it. Crimo agreed, asking to reappoint Lake County public defenders. His long dark hair was pulled back into a bun and he wore a white cloth mask and red jail uniform.

Crimo’s mother, Denise Pesina, and father, Robert Crimo Jr., attended the hearing but declined to comment on their son’s decision to rehire lawyers. Crimo Jr. pleaded guilty in November to seven misdemeanors — one for every person who was killed in the parade attack — in a case that centered on how his son obtained a gun license.

The father was sentenced to 60 days and has since been released from Lake County Jail.

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

Authorities said in 2022 that Crimo III confessed to police in the days after the attack that he unleashed a hail of bullets from a rooftop in Highland Park and then fled to the Madison, Wisconsin, area, where he contemplated shooting up another parade there.

The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case against Crimo III, declined to comment on the defendant’s legal representation. Lake County Public Defenders Gregory Ticsay and Anton Trizna, who represented Crimo until last month, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Crimo’s next court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 10.

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Savage is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Illinois man charged in Fourth of July parade shooting rehires lawyers weeks after dismissing them