The avowed White Supremacist who rammed his car into a Charlottesville crowd during a 2017 rally, which ended with one counter-protester killed and others injured, has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
James Alex Fields, the suspect, was on trial for the death and injuries he is accused of causing when he drove his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer.
He was found guilty on all charges he was facing, according to ABC News affiliate WSET, which included first-degree murder in addition to eight other charges relating to injuries and one relating to fleeing the scene of an accident.
Fields’ sentencing will be scheduled in near future. He faced life in prison.
His lawyer built his case around the argument that Fields was “scared to death” when the Unite the Right rally turned violent and clashes broke out between between protesters and counter-protesters, and that he was acting in self-defense.
The 10 charges Fields, 21, faced at his Charlottesville trial are separate from the 30 federal charges he still faces relating to hate crimes. One of those charges is eligible for the death penalty. Fields entered a not guilty plea in both the Charlottesville case and to all the federal charges.
The cases stem from Fields’ alleged crimes at the “Unite for the Right” rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017. Then, a group of white supremacists, including neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members, descended onto Charlottesville, spurred by the city’s plans to remove a Confederate statue from a park. Violence broke out as counter protesters clashed with white nationalists, prompting Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VG) to declare a state of emergency.
Some of the most controversial evidence shared during the nine-day trial were recorded conversations Fields had with his mother one day after his arrest.
Fields referred to Heyer’s mother as a “communist” and “one of those anti-white supremacists.” When Fields’ mother responded, she noted that Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, “lost her daughter.”
“It doesn’t f—— matter,” said Fields, according to ABC News affiliate WVAW.
The jury was shown text messages sent from Fields to his mother before and during the Aug. 12 rally. On Aug. 11, one day before the rally, she told him to “be careful,” and he responded “We’re not the one [sic] who need to be careful,” with an attachment: a photograph of Adolf Hitler.
The judge ruled that the text would be allowed to be entered as evidence, despite pushback from Fields’ attorneys, explaining that it shows “intent or motive of malice,” according to The Associated Press.
In a statement released after the verdict was announced, The Anti-Defamation League said that “Fields traveled to Charlottesville to participate in an event celebrating racism and anti-Semitism, and his violent actions were a devastating reminder of the consequences of unchecked hate. This verdict sends a strong message to others that hate has no place in our society.”