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James Alex Fields Jr., (L) is seen attending the "Unite the Right" rally in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017. (REUTERS/Eze Amos)
James Alex Fields Jr., (L) is seen attending the "Unite the Right" rally in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017. (REUTERS/Eze Amos)

'Domestic terrorism’

White nationalist who killed woman during Charlottesville rally pleads guilty to hate crimes

By WITW Staff on March 28, 2019

The man who drove into a crowd of counter-protestors at a 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has pleaded guilty to 29 federal hate crime charges—including one count of a hate crime that led to the death of Heather Heyer, an activist who was killed in the attack.

According to the New York Times, the other 28 counts against James Fields Jr., 21, are connected to injuries sustained by nearly 40 other people. Each count carries a fine of up to $250,000 and a maximum sentence of life in prison. As part of a plea agreement, federal prosecutors dismissed the only count that carried the possibility of the death penalty: “bias-motivated interference with federally protected activity resulting in death.”

On the day of the rally in 2017, hundreds of white nationalists converged on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a controversial monument to Confederate soldier Robert E. Lee. In a “statement of facts,” Fields admitted that he deliberately drove into an ethnically diverse group of counter-protestors, according to the Associated Press. He also admitted that he “expressed and promoted” white supremacist ideology on social media, and had participated in white supremacist chants during the rally.

Last December, a jury convicted Fields of first-degree murder in Heyer’s death, found him guilty of a slew of other state charges, and recommended that he be sentenced to life in prison. He is due to be sentenced on both the federal and state charges in July.

Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement that Fields’s federal crimes were “acts of domestic terrorism.”

“In the aftermath of the mass murder in New Zealand earlier this month,” Barr added, “we are reminded that a diverse and pluralistic community such as ours can have zero tolerance for violence on the basis of race, religion, or association with people of other races and religions.”

Read more at the New York Times and the Associated Press.

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