Highland Park shooting suspect Robert Crimo has been appointed a public defender after his parents hired a high-profile lawyer – whose clients include R Kelly – to represent them.
Mr Crimo made his first appearance in court on seven murder charges on Wednesday, two days after he opened fire on a Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb.
Appearing via Zoom from the Lake County jail, Mr Crimo spoke only once to state that he did not have a private attorney. Judge Theodore Potkonjak then paused the hearing and directed him to step into a private meeting with public defender Gregory Ticsay.
Minutes later, confusion ensued as private defence lawyer Tom Durkin – who had indicated the night before that he would represent Mr Crimo – attempted to join the Zoom meeting.
When he finally entered, Mr Durkin explained that he had to step aside from the case due to an unspecified conflict of interest. It was then agreed that Mr Ticsay would represent Mr Crimo going forward.
Judge Potkonjack ordered Mr Crimo be held without bond, calling him a “threat to the community”.
Prior to the hearing, it was revealed Mr Crimo’s parents Bob Crimo and Denise Pesina had hired Chicago attorney Steve Greenberg to represent them.
Prosecutors have not indicated any intention to bring charges against the parents, however they have come under intense public scrutiny over the cache of firearms owned by their son.
Mr Greenberg fought back against critics via Twitter on Wednesday morning, arguing that the parents are being scapegoated by the “system” when the focus should instead be on easy access to military-grade assault weapons.
“The ‘system’ is trying to make this about parenting,” Mr Greenberg wrote.
“The bigger question, that must be answered and resolved, is why are military grade assault weapons available for anyone to purchase?”
On Tuesday, authorities revealed police officers were called to the family home in Highland Park in September 2019 when a then 19-year-old Robert Crimo allegedly threatened to “kill everyone” inside.
They removed 16 knives, a sword and a dagger from the home but no charges were pressed and Mr Crimo wasn’t arrested.
Three months later, Robert Crimo was granted his first Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card, under his father Bob Crimo’s sponsorship, which was approved one month later in January 2020.
Police have said 21-year-old Mr Crimo legally purchased a cache of firearms, including the high-powered rifle used in Monday’s deadly attack.
Mr Greenberg announced he had been retained by Bob Crimo and Denise Pesina on Tuesday night.
He said the parents were cooperating “1000%” with law enforcement.
“However it is important to know the Illinois State Police renewed the gun card when their son turned 21, long before this without any involvement from his father,” he said on Twitter.
“The parents share everyone’s desire to figure out everything that went wrong so that this doesn’t happen again, to more innocent people, children, and families.”
The Independent has sought comment from Mr Greenberg.
In a statement, the suspect’s parents offered “thoughts and prayers” after Robert Crimo was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder.
“We are all mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and this is a terrible tragedy for many families, the victims, the paradegoers, the community, and our own,” they said in a statement released through Mr Greenberg.
“Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to everybody.”
The statement came as video emerged purportedly showing Denise Pesina angrily confronting a SWAT team in the aftermath of the shooting.
In footage obtained by CBS News, the mother is seen shouting and gesturing at officers on McDaniels Avenue in Highland Park on Monday, as a massive manhunt was underway for her son.
It’s unclear what the confrontation was about, but the network reported that Ms Pesina was in contact with police over for several hours after the Independence Day parade shooting.
It has also emerged that a business owned by Ms Pesina had a mailbox at a UPS Store just a few blocks from where Monday’s shooting was carried out.
Police have placed the UPS Store under seal, and nobody has been able to enter the store since Monday, CBS News reported.
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