Ohioan guilty in Char­lottesville death

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - By Jonathan M. Katz and Farah Stock­man

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.

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