James Alex Fields Jr., the self-described neo-Nazi who deliberately drove his car into a group of counterprotesters at the white nationalist Unite the Right 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, received a second life sentence on Monday. When he plowed his car into the crowd, Fields killed Heather Heyer and injured more than 30 others.
On June 28, Fields received one life sentence after he pleaded guilty to federal charges. Back in June, he pled guilty on 29 out of 30 federal hate crime charges to avoid the death penalty for murdering Heyer. U.S. Attorney General William Barr directed prosecutors not to seek the death penalty.
On Monday, Fields received the additional life sentence, plus 419 years, from Judge Richard Moore on state charges. Obviously, a second life sentence is symbolic. In this case, state law allows the judge to go lower than the jury’s decision if they choose to, but the judge went with the jury’s full recommendation. "Mr. Fields, you deserve the sentence the jury gave,” Judge Moore said as reported by Al Jazeera. “What you did was an act of terror.”
As a review, the Unite the Right rally protestors gathered in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Counterprotesters, including civil rights activist Heyer, gathered to protest white nationalism. In the end, the jury found that Fields intentionally plowed his Dodge Challenger into the crowd, which killed Heather via blunt force injury to her chest. How intentional are we talking? He pummeled his car down the one-way street. And don’t forget that he’s a self-professed neo-Nazi.
Another—particularly disturbing—piece of evidence is that roughly a month before he attacked counterprotesters with his car, he posted an image on Instagram which read: “You have the right to protest but I’m late for work.” The image was of a car plowing through a crowd.
Outside of murdering Heyer, others faced severe injuries. For example, as reported by NBC News, Star Peterson has had five surgeries on her right leg and now uses a cane and wheelchair. A friend of Heyer’s, Marcus Martin, survived with a broken ankle, twisted tibia, and damaged ligaments. Not to mention emotional trauma.
Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, read a court statement on Monday where she (generously) noted that she hopes Fields comes to reclamation in prison. “But I also hope he never sees the light of day outside of prison,” she said, as reported by Reuters.