Nazi sympathiser James Fields Jnr should get life sentence plus 419 years for Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ attack that killed Heather Heyer
- Fields, 21, drove his Dodge Charger into a group of anti-fascist protesters in 2017, killing Heyer, 32, and injuring more than a dozen others
- The same seven-woman, five-man jury that convicted Fields recommended he be given life in prison on Tuesday and an additional 419 years
An American neo-Nazi who drove his car into a group of counter-protesters last year during a white supremacist rally in Virginia, killing a woman, should be given life in prison, a jury said on Tuesday.
James Alex Fields Jnr, 21, was found guilty of murder and other charges last week following a two-week jury trial in Charlottesville. The same seven-woman, five-man jury that convicted Fields recommended a sentence of life in prison and an additional 419 years.
Fields will be given a formal sentence by the judge on March 29. Under state law, the judge can give a lower sentence than the one ordered by the jury, although this rarely happens. The judge cannot impose a longer sentence, however.
Fields rammed his car into the counter-protesters on August 12, 2017, killing 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of other people.
Those counter-protesters had gathered in opposition to a group of white supremacists who came to the university town to protest the removal of a Confederate statue.
US President Donald Trump drew broad criticism in the aftermath of the mayhem when he spoke of “blame on both sides”, appearing to establish a moral equivalence between the white supremacists and those who opposed them.
The incident turned Charlottesville into a symbol of the growing audacity of the far right under Trump.
Fields had driven overnight from his hometown of Maumee, Ohio, to support the “Unite the Right” rally to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee, the top general of the pro-slavery Confederacy during the 1861-1865 American Civil War.
Dressed in a white polo shirt and khaki pants, the uniform of the white supremacists, he took part in racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic chants, according to footage played in the courtroom.
The prosecution played videos that showed Fields stop his car and reverse up a hill before commencing his deadly assault on counter-protesters who were singing and celebrating after city officials had ordered the far-right demonstrators to leave.
In order to build their case of a premeditated attack, prosecutors presented a text Fields sent to his mother before departing for the rally after she had asked him to be careful
“We’re not the one [sic] who need to be careful,” he replied, alongside a photo of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, whom he has long admired.
They also showed the jury two Instagram posts Fields uploaded in May last year that depicted a car ramming into a group of protesters, arguing that he ultimately chose to live out that fantasy when the opportunity arose three months later.