James Alex Fields Jr., the white supremacist who rammed his car into a crowd of protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer, killing Heather Heyer, has been indicted on federal hate crime charges, NPR reports.
Hate Crime Charges For Charlottesville Car Attacker
On Wednesday, June 27, 2018, a federal grand jury for the US District Court of Virginia charged Fields, 22, with one count of a hate crime resulting in death, 28 counts of hate crimes causing bodily injuries and one count of racially motivated violent interference with a federally protected activity, according to a press release from the US Department of Justice.
Far-Right Rally Turns Deadly In Virginia
Fields was in Charlottesville to attend the “Unite the Right” rally, a gathering of loosely-affiliated groups hailing from the far right. Outright white supremacists, including Klansmen and neo-Nazis, joined with younger members of the emerging alt-right to protest Charlottesville’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate commander, from Emancipation Park. Violence erupted almost immediately, as counter-protesters descended on the rally and scuffles large and small broke out.
That’s when James Alex Fields, Jr. climbed into his Dodge Challenger and drove at speed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring many more. Graphic videos of the killing were shared widely on social media, igniting a larger national conversation about tolerance and what, precisely, we as a society are willing to allow in the public square.
An Intentional Act
In December 2017, Fields was charged with first-degree murder in Heyer’s death; prosecutors are convinced that he intentionally rammed his vehicle into the crowd on August 12, 2017.
Descriptions of the incident certainly make it sound as though Field’s actions were intentional. As a “racially and ethnically diverse crowd” gathered at the intersection of Fourth Street and East Water Street, Fields idled in his car, watching the mass of people form, the federal indictment says. Then, he backed his vehicle up to the top of a hill and proceeded to accelerate into the crowd, his car coming to a stop when it struck another vehicle parked near the intersection. He pushed his vehicle into reverse and sped away.
Hate Crime Indictment Adds To Numerous Federal Charges
The 30 new charges against Fields, announced this past Wednesday, stand in addition to the first-degree murder charge against him, which is also pending in the Virginia federal court. He was previously charged with malicious wounding and failure to stop at the scene of a crime. In bringing new charges against Fields, prosecutors have highlighted the motivation behind his alleged crime: a deep and long-standing hatred of non-whites.
History Of White Supremacism, Nazi Sympathies
In the federal indictment released on June 27, federal prosecutors mine Field’s array of social media accounts, which reveal the young man’s troubling views on race.
“On these accounts,” the indictment states, “Fields expressed and promoted his belief that white people are superior to other races and peoples; expressed support of the social and racial policies of Adolf Hitler and Nazi-era Germany, including the Holocaust; and espoused violence against African Americans, Jewish people and members of other racial, ethnic and religious groups he perceived to be non-white.”
Also important to the case is a text message Fields sent to a relative as he prepared to make the 550-mile trek from his home in Maumee, Ohio to Charlottesville. In response to his relative, who had advised him to be careful, Fields had responded, “we’re not the ones who need to be careful.” A picture of Adolf Hiter was attached to the message.
Fields May Face Death Penalty
In a press briefing held after the charges were announced, FBI Special Agent Adam Lee said, “peaceful protest is every American’s birthright. James Fields killed Heather Heyer in the name of hate.” In other states, Fields could have been charged with domestic terrorism, but Virginia doesn’t have a law for that on its books. US Attorney Thomas T. Cullen says hate crimes “were the best fit,” The Daily Progress reports. Prosecutors are mulling over the idea of pursuing the death penalty.