The self-professed white supremacist who killed a woman after he rammed his car through a crowd protesting a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., was sentenced Friday to life in prison.
James Alex Fields Jr., who has a yearslong history of spouting racist and anti-Semitic comments, pleaded guilty in March to 29 federal hate crimes as part of a plea deal that allowed him to avoid the death penalty.
Fields was 20 years old when he traveled to Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, to join thousands of other white nationalists, neo-Nazis and white supremacists for the “Unite the Right” rally — an event aimed at protesting local officials’ decision to remove a statue of Confederate War Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park.
Heather Heyer, meanwhile, joined scores of others downtown to call for peace and to protest the racist groups marching through her city. Tensions mounted as the day progressed and the rally eventually descended into violence and chaos.
As those protesting racism and hate marched against the rally that afternoon, a vehicle ripped through the crowd — killing 34-year-old Heyer and injuring dozens more. Fields was arrested for the vicious vehicular attack, and in December he was convicted in Virginia on first-degree murder and several other charges.
Those charges are separate from the federal charges he was sentenced for on Friday. He’s is slated to be sentenced in that case on July 15.
According to a federal indictment, Fields took to social media ahead of the Charlottesville protest and “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 other members of racial, ethnic and religious groups he perceived to be non-white.”
When he spotted the group of diverse protesters carrying signs promoting equality, he “rapidly accelerated, through a stop sign and across a raised pedestrian mall, and drove directly into the crowd.”
His Dodge Challenger only came to a stop when it barreled into another vehicle, according to the indictment.
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