James Alex Fields Jr., an avowed white supremacist who killed Heather Heyer and injured dozens of other counter-protesters with his car at the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Fields pleaded guilty to 29 of 30 hate crime charges and was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. He also faces more than 400 years on the state charges, for which sentencing is scheduled for July.
Fields admitted, during his plea hearing, that he drove his vehicle into the crowd of anti-racism protesters because of the “actual and perceived race, color, national origin and religion of its members.” He used social media accounts before the racist rally to support the policies of Adolf Hitler and Nazi-era Germany and to continue to spread white supremacist ideologies.
The 22-year-old addressed the court before the sentencing: “I apologize for the hurt and loss I’ve caused.”
But, after the sentencing, Thomas Cullen, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, told reporters Fields’ actions were “cold-blooded.”
“It was motivated by deep-seated racial animus,” Cullen said.
Last week, Fields’ lawyers said, in a sentencing memo submitted in court documents, that he should not spend his entire life in prison because of his age, a traumatic childhood, and a history of mental illness. Being raised by a paraplegic single mother, and growing up knowing that his Jewish grandfather had murdered his grandmother before committing suicide, was being used as an excuse.
Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, gave a victim impact statement in court.
“I never wish for the death penalty and still don’t,” Bro said, according to WCAV. “I would like to see him change in time from a white supremacist to someone who helps bring others away from white supremacy.”
Heather Heyer, age 32 at the time of her death, was born in Charlottesville. She was a paralegal and an activist for civil rights.