Charlottesville driver convicted
A neo-Nazi supporter was found guilty of killing a woman by driving through a crowd of protesters.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — An avowed supporter of neo-Nazi beliefs who took part in the violent and chaotic white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in this city last year was found guilty Friday of first-degree murder for killing a woman by ramming his car through a crowd of counterprotesters.
A jury of seven women and five men began deliberating Friday and took just over seven hours to reach its decision that James Fields Jr., 21, of Maumee, Ohio, acted with premeditation.
Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and 35 others injured, many grievously.
Fields appeared stoic as the verdict was read. Judge Richard Moore told jurors they would reconvene Monday for a sentencing hearing. The jury will hear evidence and then will recommend a sentence to the judge.
The deadly attack in the early afternoon of Aug. 12, 2017, culminated a dark 24 hours in this quiet college town. It was marked by a menacing torchlight march through the University of Virginia campus the night before, with participants shouting racist and antiSemitic insults, and wild street battles on the morning of the planned rally.
Many in their emboldened ranks shouted fascist slogans, displayed Nazi swastikas and Confederate battle flags and extended their arms in Sieg Heil salutes. And many also wore red Make America Great Again hats, saying they were encouraged in the public display of their beliefs by President Donald Trump.
Fields’ conviction followed six days of testimony in Charlottesville Circuit Court, where Heyer’s deadly injuries were detailed and survivors of the crash described the chaos and their own injuries.
Defense attorneys Denise Lunsford and John Hill did not deny Fields drove the car that killed Heyer and injured dozens. But they said it was not out of malice, rather out of fear for his own safety and confusion.
“He wasn’t angry, he was scared,” Lunsford told the jury in her closing argument.
Prosecutors, though, said Fields was enraged when he drove more than 500 miles from his apartment in Ohio to take part in the rally — and later chose to act on that anger by ramming his two-door muscle car into the crowd.
A jury in , Va., convicted James Fields Jr. of first-degree murder for driving his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counterprotesters last year, killing Heather Heyer, 32.