Man who drove into crowd convicted
Jury finds Fields guilty of first- degree murder
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A man who drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia was convicted Friday of firstdegree murder for killing a woman in an attack that inflamed long- simmering racial and political tensions across the country.
A state jury rejected arguments that James Alex Fields Jr. acted in self- defense during a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017. Jurors also convicted Fields of eight other charges, including aggravated malicious wounding and hit- and- run.
Fields, 21, drove to Virginia from his home in Maumee, Ohio, to support the white nationalists. As a large group of counter pro testers marched through Charlottesville singing and laughing, he stopped his car, backed up, then sped into the crowd, according to testimony from witnesses and video surveillance shown to jurors.
Prosecutors told the jury that Fields was angry after witnessing violent clashes between the two sides earlier in the day. The violence prompted police to shut down the rally before it even officially began.
Heather Heyer, a 32- yearold paralegal and civil rights activist, was killed, and nearly three dozen others were injured. The trial featured emotional testimony from survivors who described devastating injuries and long, complicated recoveries.
After the verdict was read in court, some of those who were injured embraced Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro. She left the courthouse without commenting. Fields’ mother, Samantha Bloom, who is disabled, left the courthouse in a wheelchair without commenting.
A group of about a dozen local civil rights activists stood in front of the courthouse after the verdict with their right arms raised in the air.
“They will not replace us! They will not replace us!” they yelled, in a response to the chants heard during the 2017 rally, when some white nationalists shouted: “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us.”
Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy said he hopes the verdict “allows our community to take another step toward healing and moving forward.”
Charlottesville civil rights activist Tanesha Hudson said she sees the guilty verdict as the city’s way of saying, “We will not tolerate this in our city.”
“We don’t stand for this type of hate. We just don’t,” she said.
White nationalist Richard Spencer, who had been scheduled to speak at the Unite t he Right r al l y, described the verdict as a “miscarriage of justice.”
The jury will reconvene Monday to determine a sentence. Under the law, jurors can recommend from 20 years to life in prison.
Fields is eligible for the death penalty if convicted of separate federal hate crime charges. No trial has been scheduled yet.