James Alex Fields Jr., the man who rammed his car into a crowd at the Charlottesville rally in 2017 where one counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed and others injured has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
Suspect James Alex Fields Jr. was on trial for the death and injuries he is accused of causing when he drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer.
He was found guilty on all of the charges he was facing which included first-degree murder as well as eight other charges relating to injuries and one relating to fleeing the scene of an accident.
Fields’ sentencing will come at a later date, and he faces life in prison.
His lawyer said in court that Fields was “scared to death” after the Unite the Right rally turned violent and clashes had broken out between protesters and counter-protesters, and they built their case around the claim that he was acting in self defense.
The 10 charges Fields, 21, faced in this trial in the Charlottesville City Circuit Court are separate from the 30 federal charges he faces that relate to hate crimes. One of those federal charges is eligible for the death penalty. He entered a not guilty plea in both the Circuit Court case and to the federal charges.
The cases stem from Fields’ actions at the “Unite for the Right” rally in the Virginia town on Aug. 12, 2017. At the time, a group of white nationalists, which included neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members, descended onto Charlottesville, spurred by the city’s plans to remove a Confederate statue from a downtown park. Violence broke out as counter protesters clashed with white nationalists, prompting Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency.
Some of the most controversial evidence that was shared as part of the nine-day trial were recorded jailhouse conversations Fields had with his mother after his arrest.
Fields referred to Heyer’s mother in a recorded jailhouse phone call as a “communist” and “one of those anti-white supremacists.” When Fields’ mother responded, she noted how Heyer’s mother Susan Bro “lost her daughter.”
“It doesn’t f—— matter,” Fields said.
The jury was also shown texts that Fields sent his mother up to and during the rally. On Aug. 11, 2017, the day before the rally, she told him to be careful and he responded “We’re not the one [sic] who need to be careful,” along with a picture of Adolf Hitler.
The judge ruled that the text would be allowed to be entered as evidence, despite Fields’ lawyer’s protests, saying that it shows intent or motive of malice.
In a statement released after the verdicts were announced, officials from the Anti-Defamation League said that “Fields traveled to Charlottesville to participate in an event celebrating racism and anti-Semitism, and his violent actions were a devastating reminder of the consequences of unchecked hate. This verdict sends a strong message to others that hate has no place in our society.”
EARLIER : James Fields Jr Faces 1st Degree Murder For Plowing Down Heather Heyer In Charlottesville
Ohio man, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, accused of fatally hitting 32-year-old Heather Heyer as he rammed his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, will be charged with first-degree murder. A judge upgraded the second-degree murder charge against James Fields Jr. at a preliminary hearing on Thursday
James Alex Fields Jr had previously been charged with second-degree murder for the death of Heather Heyer, as well as other charges related to the incident, but on Thursday, prosecutors upgraded the murder charge against Fields.
In addition to the first-degree murder charge, Fields will also face one felony count of hit and run and five felony counts of aggravated malicious wounding.
Fields is accused of murdering Hayer in the midst of heated protests and counter protests during a white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Fields has been described as a white supremacist and Hayer was involved in counter protests disavowing the white supremacist rally.
But during Thursday’s hearing, Fields’ attorney, Denise Lundsford, tried to gain sympathy for her client when she cross-examined Det. Steven Young, who was on the scene during the initial arrest. Young said Fields repeatedly apologized when he was arrested and cried when he was told Hayer died.
The incident was part of a deadly weekend in Charlottesville that began as a purported protest against the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue and spun into a national controversy. On Friday night, white supremacists marched across the University of Virginia campus with torches and chants of “Jews will not replace us,” and wound up brawling with counterprotesters.
The next day, Unite the Right, a white nationalist demonstration, brought hundreds of demonstrators and counterprotesters also came to downtown Charlottesville. Among them was Heyer, 32, who friends say always spoke up against racism and anything that she felt was wrong.
Fields’ case is scheduled to go before a Grand Jury on Monday.