By NJG Staff
A jury recommended a life sentence for avowed neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr., 21, of Ohio, who pleaded guilty to hate crimes in federal court on March 27 and is scheduled to be sentenced July 3.
Fields admitted guilt to 29 of 30 counts in a federal indictment as part of a deal with prosecutors, who agreed to not seek the death penalty in a case that has come to symbolize the violent resurgence of white supremacy in the United States.
In mid-July, a state judge is scheduled to formally impose a life sentence on Fields. Late last year, he was convicted in state court of first-degree murder and other charges for killing Heather D. Heyer, 32, and injuring dozens at the Unite the Right rally on Aug. 12, 2017.
Admitting guilt to hate crimes marks a dramatic shift for Fields.
During his trial in state court his attorneys argued that he sped toward the crowd out of fear for his safety and confusion. They said he immediately regretted his actions.
According to news reports, Fields entered a federal courtroom on March 27 with a beard, in a gray-and-white-striped prisoner’s jumpsuit, and handcuffs–a marked change in his appearance in the months since his state trial. He spoke only to answer a judge’s questions and displayed no emotion during the hour-long hearing.
Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, said after the hearing she was satisfied with the result.
“There’s no point in killing him. It would not bring back Heather,” Bro said.
“It’s a relief to think we don’t have to go through another trial. It was exhausting the first time. I can get on with my life, and the other victims can, too.”
Thomas T. Cullen, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said he was gratified that Fields finally admitted he was motivated by hate, calling the crime “an indelible mark on the city of Charlottesville, our state, and our country.”
According to news reports, Fields pleaded guilty to one count of a hate crime that resulted in the death of Heyer and 28 counts of hate crimes that caused injuries and involved attempts to kill other people in the crowd. Each of the 29 counts carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Attorney General William P. Barr approved the deal.