Fields’ attack. Photo by Ryan Kelly/AP. On front, photo by Michael Dwyer/AP.
A jury has sentenced 21-year-old, very sick, evidently remorseless neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. to life in prison plus 419 years for killing activist Heather Heyer and seriously injuring 35 others when he rammed his car into a crowd of protesters at the August 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, VA. Fields, who was convicted last week of first degree murder, also faces fines of $480,000, presumably a moot point other than symbolically. The jury tacked on the additional 419 years for his other charges: 70 years for each of five malicious wounding charges, 20 years for each of three other malicious wounding charges, and nine years on one charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving a death. Judge Richard Moore accepted the jury’s recommendation; a formal sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 29.
Fields must still stand trial next year on federal hate crime charges, for which he faces the death penalty. FBI Special Agent in Charge Adam Lee said Fields’ crimes, and his fate, offer “a grim reminder to those who are motivated by hate and intent on committing violence: We are going to be there.” Many others echoed the same determination that, post-Charlottesville, hate would not win. After Fields’ conviction, residents marched downtown declaring, “We have reclaimed our streets”; others sang, “We will walk with you, Charlottesville, and sing your spirit home.” At the sentencing hearing, survivors wept as they described their “living nightmare,” and Heyer’s mother Susan Bro, who has taken up her daughter’s activism, testified, “The darkness has tried to swallow us whole.” She doesn’t hate her daughter’s killer – “I’m leaving him in the hands of justice” – but neither will she accede to his hate-filled world view. “Heather was full of love, justice, and fairness,” Bro said. “Mr. Fields tried to silence her. I refuse to allow that.”
Heyer’s mother Susan Bro. Photo by Bryan Snyder/Reuters
Photo by Evan Vucci/AP