White na­tion­al­ist con­victed of Char­lottes­ville mur­der


CHAR­LOTTES­VILLE, Vir­gina (Reuters) – A white na­tion­al­ist who drove his car into a crowd protest­ing against a white su­prem­a­cist rally in Char­lottes­ville, Vir­ginia, last year, killing one of the counter-demon­stra­tors, was found guilty on Fri­day of first-de­gree mur­der and nine other counts.

The jury de­lib­er­ated for seven hours be­fore con­vict­ing James Fields, 21, of all charges stem­ming from the deadly at­tack that oc­curred af­ter po­lice had de­clared an un­law­ful as­sem­bly and cleared a city park of white su­prem­a­cists gath­ered for the “Unite the Right” rally.

Fields, who did not take the wit­ness stand to de­fend him­self, faces a max­i­mum penalty of life in prison. The 12 members of the mostly white jury – seven women and five men – were to re­turn to court on Mon­day for the start of the sen­tenc­ing phase of the trial.

Wear­ing a light-blue sweater and eye­glasses, Fields sat ex­pres­sion­less be­tween his two at­tor­neys as the ver­dict was pro­nounced, glanc­ing briefly at spec­ta­tors in the crowded court­room.

De­fense at­tor­neys never dis­puted that Fields was be­hind the wheel of the Dodge Charger that sent bod­ies fly­ing when it crashed into a crowd on Au­gust 12, 2017, killing counter-pro­tester Heather Heyer, 32 and in­jur­ing 19 oth­ers.

In­stead, Fields’s lawyers sug­gested dur­ing the twoweek trial that he felt in­tim­i­dated by a hos­tile crowd and acted to pro­tect him­self.

De­fense at­tor­ney Denise Lunsford told jurors in clos­ing ar­gu­ments that her client had ex­pressed re­morse when ar­rested, say­ing to po­lice, “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hurt any­one. I thought they were at­tack­ing me.”

Pros­e­cu­tors coun­tered that Field was mo­ti­vated by ha­tred and had come to the rally to harm oth­ers.

The car-ram­ming capped a day of ten­sion and phys­i­cal clashes be­tween hun­dreds of white su­prem­a­cists and neo-Nazis who had as­sem­bled in Char­lottes­ville to protest against the re­moval of stat­ues com­mem­o­rat­ing two Con­fed­er­ate gen­er­als of the US Civil War, and groups of op­pos­ing demon­stra­tors.

The night be­fore, the “Unite the Right” pro­test­ers had staged a torch-lit march through the nearby Univer­sity of Vir­ginia cam­pus, chant­ing racist and an­tisemitic slo­gans.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was strongly con­demned by fel­low Repub­li­cans as well as Democrats for say­ing af­ter­ward that “both sides” were to blame for the vi­o­lence.

Fields, a res­i­dent of Maumee, Ohio, was pho­tographed hours be­fore the car at­tack car­ry­ing a shield with the em­blem of a far-right hate group. He has iden­ti­fied him­self as a neo-Nazi.

Fields also faces sep­a­rate fed­eral hate-crime charges, which carry a po­ten­tial death sen­tence. He has pleaded not guilty in that case as well.

The moth­ers of both Fields and Heyer were present in the court­room when the ver­dict was re­turned.

In ad­di­tion to mur­der, Fields was con­victed of five counts of ag­gra­vated ma­li­cious wound­ing, three counts of ma­li­cious wound­ing and a hit-and-run of­fense.

Four other men from Cal­i­for­nia de­scribed by pros­e­cu­tors as members of a mil­i­tant white su­prem­a­cist group, Rise Above Move­ment, were ar­rested in Oc­to­ber on fed­eral charges of in­sti­gat­ing vi­o­lence dur­ing the Char­lottes­ville ral­lies.

(Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

RES­CUE WORK­ERS as­sist peo­ple who were in­jured when a car driven by James Fields plowed through a group of coun­ter­protesters at the “Unite the Right” rally in Char­lottes­ville, Vir­ginia, on Au­gust 12, 2017.

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