Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

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 they are devastated by what happened in court.

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Robert Crimo III was expected to change his plea from not guilty to guilty but he apparently changed his mind

The 23 year old was sitting in a wheelchair for reasons unknown at the case management conference.

Prosecutors went over the terms of the plea deal where Crimo would have plead guilty to seven counts of first degree murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.

The agreed negotiation was for a term of natural life with no possibility of parole.

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.

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

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 wil 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.

Survivors were there in the courtroom ready for this to advance to the sentencing phase Wednesday. They were prepared to give victim impact statements, but that was not to be.

Leah Sundheim was in court Wednesday. Her mother was killed in the attack.

“We have Fourth of July coming up and it will be two years and all I wanted was to fully grieve my mom without the looming trial knowing that he is going to spend the rest of his life in jail and instead we were yet again shown his complete and blatant disregard for humans or anyone, all of us in that courtroom,” Sundheim said. “Instead, we now get to sit and wait weeks and months of more hearings and unknowns that we just have to live with until hopefully in February.”

Crimo’s father left court without any comment. When asked if he knew what his son’s reasons were for changing his mind, he continued to say no comment.

Crimo III has changed his mind in the past, wanting to get rid of his public defenders and represent himself.

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, this will now go to trial as originally planned in February of next year.

Victims had hoped to avoid that all together and not re-live the pain of that day and the days after.

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