Ohioan guilty in Charlottesville death
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — After deliberating for more than seven hours Friday, a Charlottesville jury convicted James Alex Fields Jr. of first- degree murder, finding that the Ohio man intentionally drove his car into a crowd of protesters at a whitenationalist rally last year, killing one woman and injuring nearly 40 others.
The jury, which heard testimony in a case in which hate and racism were as much on trial as Fields, also found the 21- year- old from Maumee guilty of five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of leaving the scene of a crime.
He faces up to life in prison for the death of Heather Heyer, 32, and for the aggravated woundings, and up to 20 years for the other offenses.
Friday’s verdict provides some closure in a case that cast a national spotlight on Charlottesville, the scene chosen by racists and antiSemites 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 Fields Jr. and a broken back.
Many of the victims returned to the courtroom day after day to listen to other witnesses, and jurors saw them hugging and comforting one another.
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 ones who need to be careful,” he replied in a message that also included a photo of Adolf Hitler.
Fields’ defense lawyers did not dispute that he drove his car into the crowd but said he “acted out of fear” rather than malice, highlighting the scuffles and clashes that took place earlier that day between Unite the Right participants and antiracism activists.
Fields will be sentenced after victims give impact statements.
He also faces the death penalty in a second trial on federal hate- crimes charges.