James Fields jailed: White supremacist who killed woman during Charlottesville rally sentenced to life in prison

Fields deliberately drove his car into the crowd that had gathered to demonstrate against a nearby white nationalist rally

Chris Riotta
New York
Friday 28 June 2019 20:18 BST
White supremacist who killed woman after driving car into Charlottesville protesters begs judge to show him 'mercy'

James Alex Fields Jr, a hate-filled man who drove into a group of activists protesting white nationalists and killed protestor Heather Heyer, has been sentenced to life in prison for his crimes.

A federal judge ruled Fields should get life in prison for killing Ms Heyer and injuring over two dozen others at the 2017 rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Fields deliberately drove his car into the crowd that had gathered to demonstrate against a nearby white nationalist rally.

He was charged with 29 hate crime counts and one count of "racially motivated violent interference." He pleaded guilty to 29 of the counts. In exchange, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors and Fields' lawyers agreed that federal sentencing guidelines call for a life sentence. But in a sentencing memo filed in court last week, Fields' lawyers asked US District Judge Michael Urbanski to consider a sentence of "less than life."

"No amount of punishment imposed on James can repair the damage he caused to dozens of innocent people. But this Court should find that retribution has limits," his attorneys wrote.

Fields has almost no hope of getting out of prison in any case: He also faces sentencing in state court on July 15. A jury has recommended life plus 419 years.

Donald Trump sparked controversy when he blamed the violence at the rally on "both sides," a statement critics saw as a refusal to condemn racism.

Fields' lawyers had hoped the judge would take into account his troubled childhood and mental health issues when handing down his sentence.

During Fields' state trial, a psychologist testified for the defence that Fields had inexplicable volatile outbursts as a young child, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 6 and was later diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder.

In a sentencing memo, defence attorneys said Fields was raised by a paraplegic single mother and suffered "trauma" knowing that his Jewish grandfather had slain his grandmother before taking his own life.

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Prosecutors, however, said Fields has a long history of racist and anti-Semitic behaviour and has shown no remorse for his crimes. They said he's an avowed white supremacist, admired Adolf Hitler and even kept a picture of the Nazi leader on his bedside table.

Additional reporting by AP.

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