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Robert E. Crimo III, a 21-year-old from Illinois who also goes by “Awake the Rapper” and is accused of killing at least 7 and injuring dozens more at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade Monday, allegedly had help from his father obtaining weapons.
Could his parents face legal consequences? A civil case is likely, according to several attorneys who spoke with Fox News Digital Wednesday. Criminal charges could be harder to prove but are not off the table.
“Negligent entrustment of dangerous weapons can be used against them on the civil side,” said Steve Bertolino, the New York attorney who represents the parents of the late suspected killer Brian Laundrie. “On the criminal side, I don’t know that the criminal statutes are on par with what the public of our time seems to want to apply as the rule of law in holding persons responsible for the acts of others.”
But prosecutors have grown more aggressive in their pursuit of charges against the parents of suspected mass shooters, according to Neama Rahmani, a Los Angeles trial attorney and former federal prosecutor.
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“We saw this with the Crumbleys, and I expect the trend to continue,” he said, referencing the parents of the Detroit-area shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley, who allegedly made a handgun available to their underage son and are accused of failing to respond to his signs of mental illness before he allegedly killed four classmates and injured another seven people.
“Criminal liability will turn on the concept of ‘reasonable foreseeability,’” Rahmani told Fox News Digital. “Was it foreseeable that sponsoring a firearms application for someone who threatened to kill himself and others would lead to the deaths of others? If so, Bob Crimo can be charged with manslaughter under Illinois law.”
Illinois State Police said Tuesday that the younger Crimo passed firearms background checks four times in the past two years, including three checks between June and July of 2020.
One of his legally purchased firearms, according to authorities, was the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifle prosecutors allege he used to fire on parade spectators from a rooftop perch Monday. He dropped it at the scene in Highland Park but had another rifle with him as he drove to Madison, Wisconsin, and allegedly contemplated a second mass shooting that never materialized.
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In 2019 he applied for a Firearm Owners Identification card, or FOID, which is required under Illinois law for residents to legally possess guns or ammunition. Applicants under 21 years old must have written parental consent.
He was 19 at the time, according to authorities, and his father, Robert E. Crimo Jr., sponsored the application despite two police calls to the family home earlier that year and a the younger Crimo’s apparent affinity for posting violent imagery online.
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The first incident allegedly involved the younger Crimo making suicidal threats. Mental health workers handled the incident without submitting reports to Illinois State Police, the ISP said in a statement.
In the second, he was accused of threatening to kill family members with knives, and police confiscated bladed weapons from the home, according to Chief Deputy Chris Covelli of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force. They were returned to his father later the same day, state police said separately.
Highland Park police filed a “clear and present danger report” with the state, but “no one, including the family, was willing to move forward on a complaint,” the ISP said in a statement Tuesday.
Authorities said they had not been provided with enough evidence to take action on any threats or mental health issues, and Crimo was not subjected to a firearms restraining order.
“At that time of the September 2019 incident, the subject did not have a FOID card to revoke or a pending FOID application to deny,” state police said. “Once this determination was made, Illinois State Police involvement with the matter was concluded.”
However, two months later, Crimo applied for the FOID card with his father’s sponsorship. According to the ISP, there was “insufficient basis” to deny the application.
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State guidelines state that a person must have “been adjudicated by a court as a mental defective or ordered by a court, board or authorized entity to in-patient or out-patient mental health treatment” to be ruled ineligible for a FOID card. Other disqualifications include conviction of a firearms offense or domestic battery, or any felonies.
So under the state’s guidelines, Crimo was able to obtain the card and legally purchase his weapons.
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“The key component I think is that he was never charged, he was never formally charged with a crime,” said James Scozzari, a partner at the Midwestern law firm Scozzari Graham. “If he’s not formally charged, there’s not going to be anything in any database that they do the background check with.”
Still, experts believe Crimo’s father could still be found liable in a civil lawsuit.
“Criminal charges are not likely against the father,” argued Lara Yeretsian, a California-based defense attorney who has worked on cases involving Michael Jackson, Nate Dogg and Scott Peterson. “Although he sponsored his son’s FOID card, Illinois law allows the sponsorship…Civil liability is a different story.”
And it’s also easier to prove, Rahmani argued.
“Just like a parent can be sued for negligently entrusting a vehicle to a child who they know to be an unsafe driver, Bob Crimo can be sued for helping his dangerous son acquire handguns and rifles,” he said.
The suspect’s father did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Crimo III made his first appearance in court Wednesday morning and Judge Theodore S. Potkonjak ordered him held without bond. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.