CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.— A Virginia state judge on July 15 sentenced a self-professed neo-Nazi to a second life prison term for killing a demonstrator when he drove his car into a crowd during protests and counter-protests surrounding the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville two years ago.
Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Richard Moore sentenced James Fields, 22, to life plus 419 years, as recommended by the jury that found him guilty in December 2018 of murder, plus eight counts of malicious wounding and a hit-and-run offense.
“Mr. Fields, you deserve the sentence the jury gave. What you did was an act of terror,” Moore said.
Fields, a resident of Maumee, Ohio, who appeared in court on July 15 in striped prison garb, had already received a separate life sentence without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty in March to federal hate crime charges stemming from the violence in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017.
Heather Heyer, 32, one of the counter-demonstrators, was killed in the attack, which also injured many others.
Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, said in a statement read in court on July 15 that she hoped Fields finds reclamation in prison. “But I also hope he never sees the light of day outside of prison,” she said.
Statements by several victims were also read in court.
The deadly car-ramming capped a day of tension and physical clashes between members of the Antifa extremist group, white nationalists, Neo-Nazis, and other extremists. The groups, which also included nonviolent and non-extremist protesters on both sides, gathered in Charlottesville for and against a “Unite the Right” rally.
By the time of the car attack, police had already declared an unlawful assembly and cleared city park protesters who were there to protest the removal of statues commemorating two Confederate generals of the Civil War.
The night before, a detachment of protesters had staged a torch-lit march through the nearby University of Virginia campus chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans.
Democrats have long seized on the events in Charlottesville to attack President Donald Trump, who acknowledged that nonviolent and non-extremist protesters were present on both sides of the clashes.
During the state court trial, Fields’ lawyers never disputed that Fields was behind the wheel of the Dodge Charger that sent bodies flying when the vehicle slammed into Heyer and about 30 other people. Instead, the defense suggested that Fields felt intimidated by the hostile crowds.
Prosecutors countered that Fields was motivated by hatred and had gone to the rally to harm others. The defendant, who has identified himself as a neo-Nazi, was photographed hours before the car attack carrying a shield with an emblem of a hate group.
Less than a month before the events in Charlottesville, he had posted an image on Instagram showing a car plowing through a crowd of people captioned: “You have the right to protest but I’m late for work.”
Epoch Times writer Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.