Fields guilty of mur­der in death at Char­lottesville rally

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan M. Katz and Farah Stock­man NEW YORK TIMES

CHAR­LOTTESVILLE, Va. – Af­ter de­lib­er­at­ing for more than seven hours Fri­day, a Char­lottesville jury con­victed James Fields Jr. of first-de­gree mur­der, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press, finding that the Ohio man in­ten­tion­ally drove his car into a crowd of pro­test­ers at a white na­tion­al­ist rally last year, killing one woman and in­jur­ing nearly 40 oth­ers.

Fields, 21, faces up to life in prison for the death of Heather Heyer, 32.

The case cast a na­tional spot­light on Char­lottesville, the scene cho­sen by racists and anti-Semites to rally for their cause, near a Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ment that some city lead­ers were try­ing to re­move. The Au­gust 2017 Unite the Right rally was marked by violent clashes be­tween coun­ter­protesters and white na­tion­al­ists, some of whom were con­victed ear­lier this year.

The nine-day trial fea­tured days of emo­tional tes­ti­mony from vic­tims who were se­ri­ously in­jured in the crash, in­clud­ing a man who pushed his girl­friend out of the way, bear­ing the brunt of the im­pact him­self, and a sin­gle mother who suf­fered two bro­ken legs and a bro­ken back.

Dur­ing the trial, pros­e­cu­tors in­tro­duced ev­i­dence that Fields in­tended to com­mit harm when he drove from Ohio to at­tend the rally, which fea­tured neo-Nazis bear­ing swastikas and Ku Klux Klan mem­bers. In a text mes­sage ex­change with his mother be­fore the rally, Fields was told to “be care­ful.” “We’re not the one[s] who need to be care­ful,” he replied in a mes­sage that also in­cluded a photo of Adolf Hitler.

Pros­e­cu­tors also showed the jury a car­toon Fields had shared months ear­lier on In­sta­gram of a car ram­ming into a crowd, with the words, “You have the right to protest but I’m late for work.” Other ev­i­dence in­cluded record­ings of con­ver­sa­tions Fields had with his mother af­ter his ar­rest, in which he de­scribed the coun­ter­protesters at the rally as a “violent gang of ter­ror­ists,” and de­rided Heyer’s mother, Su­san Bro, as an “anti-white liberal” who should be viewed as an en­emy.

Fields’ de­fense lawyers did not dis­pute that he drove his car into the crowd, but claimed he “acted out of fear” rather than mal­ice. “There’s no ev­i­dence he came pre­pared to do any harm,” said lawyer John Hill.

But video footage showed Fields’ car idling, un­mo­lested, and even back­ing up out of the cam­era frame be­fore it sped ahead into the crowd. The prose­cu­tor, Nina-Alice Antony, ar­gued that Fields clearly had “spe­cific in­tent to kill a hu­man be­ing.” He will be sen­tenced af­ter vic­tims give im­pact state­ments.

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