Driver who plowed into crowd at Charlottesville protest guilty of murder

Local activists raise their fists outside Charlottesville General District Court after a guilty verdict was reached in the trial of James Alex Fields Jr. in Charlottesville Va. Friday Dec. 7 2018. Fields was convicted of first degree murder in the

Neo-nazi guilty of murder over Charlottesville riots

A man who drove his vehicle into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia has been convicted of first-degree murder.

A state jury rejected defence arguments that James Alex Fields Jr. acted in self-defence during a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017.

The jury deliberated for several hours before convicting Fields, 21, of first degree murder, along with several counts of aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding and leaving the scene of an accident.

The sentencing phase will begin Monday at 9:30 a.m.; the jury will consider whether to recommend life in prison.

Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal and civil rights activist, was killed, and almost three dozen others were injured.

The nine-day trial featured days of emotional testimony from victims who were seriously injured in the crash, including a man who pushed his girlfriend out of the way, bearing the brunt of the impact himself, and a single mother who suffered two broken legs and a broken back. When Fields' mother responded, she noted how Heyer's mother Susan Bro "lost her daughter".

"I'm very happy with the verdict", she said outside the courthouse. "Today, we have reclaimed our streets", local activist Rosia Parker proclaimed at a Charlottesville memorial for Heyer, according to The Daily Progress.

"They will not replace us!"

"You can't do that based on the fact that he holds extreme right-wing views", she said.

Susan Bro left mother of Heather Heyer is hugged by a supporter on the steps of the courthouse after a guilty verdict was reached in the trial of James Alex Fields Jr. Friday Dec. 7 2018 at Charlottesville General district court in Charlottesville
James Alex Fields Found Guilty of First-Degree Murder in Violent Charlottesville Rally That Killed 1, Injured Others

Defence attorney Denise Lunsford told jurors in closing arguments that her client had expressed remorse when arrested, saying to police: "I'm sorry I didn't want to hurt anyone".

The rally brought out thousands of supporters of the alt-right, a loosely-knit coalition of white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis. He said he doesn't feel any personal responsibility for the violence that erupted in Charlottesville. At the time, a group of white nationalists, which included neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members, descended onto Charlottesville, spurred by the city's plans to remove a Confederate statue from a downtown park. Some dressed in battle gear.

President Trump drew wide-scale criticism when in the aftermath of Charlottesville, he said that there was "blame on both sides".

Reports coming from the trial note that some of Fields's school teachers remember him being peculiarly fascinated with Nazism and Adolf Hitler.

Jurors also saw a text exchange shortly before the rally in which Fields told his mother he was planning to attend, and she told him to be careful. "We're not the one who need to be careful", Fields replied in a misspelled text message on August 11, 2017.

Prosecutors portrayed Fields as an angry white supremacist motivated by hate as he plowed into the crowd, showing a text message he sent containing an image of Adolf Hitler and a meme posted on Instagram showing bodies tossed into the air after a auto plows into a crowd identified as "protesters". He posted the meme publicly to his Instagram page and sent a similar image as a private message to a friend in May 2017.

But Fields' lawyer said he panicked and was "scared to death" after witnessing violent clashes earlier in the day.

"This is the best I've been in a year and a half", Bowie said.

The jury had the option of convicting Fields on lesser charges, but found he maliciously, willfully and deliberately drove into the crowd near 4th and Water streets. Violence broke out as counter protesters clashed with white nationalists, prompting Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency. No trial has been scheduled yet.

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