Man Sentenced to 2nd Life Term in Charlottesville Car Attack

Man Sentenced to 2nd Life Term in Charlottesville Car Attack
James Alex Fields Jr., is led out of General District Court courthouse after his sentencing on state charges, in Charlottesville, Va. Fields, on July 15, 2019. (Steve Helber/AP Photo)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—An avowed white supremacist was sentenced to life plus 419 years on state charges on July 15 for deliberately driving his car into protesters during a rally in Virginia.

James Alex Fields Jr., 22, received the sentence for killing one person and injuring dozens during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017.

Last month, Fields received a life sentence on 29 federal hate crime charges.

James Alex Fields Jr.
James Alex Fields Jr. (Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail via AP)

Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Richard Moore followed a state jury’s recommendation in handing down the sentence. Under state law, he was allowed to go lower than the recommendation, but not higher.

“Mr. Fields, you had choices. We all have choices,” Moore said. “You made the wrong ones and you caused great harm. … You caused harm around the globe when people saw what you did.”

A Charlottesville Sheriff's van carrying James Alex Fields Jr., approaches the temporary General District Court
A Charlottesville Sheriff’s van carrying James Alex Fields Jr., approaches the temporary General District Court courthouse in Charlottesville, Va., on July 15, 2019. (Steve Helber/AP Photo)

The state sentence is mainly symbolic given that Fields was already sentenced to life on the federal charges.

“For his purposes, he has one life to give, so this is a largely academic exercise,” noted Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.

Fields, an avowed white supremacist who kept a photo of Adolf Hitler on his bedside table, drove from his home in Maumee, Ohio, to attend the rally, which drew hundreds of protestors to Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. The event also drew counterprotesters.

Violent skirmishes between the two sides prompted police to declare an unlawful assembly and to order the groups to disband before the rally could even begin. Later that day, Fields plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer , 32, and injuring more than two dozen others.

People fly into the air
People fly into the air as a vehicle is driven into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. James Alex Fields Jr. Fields in this Aug. 12, 2017, (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP, File)

The event stirred racial tensions around the country.

During Fields’ state trial, his attorneys focused on his history of mental illness and traumatic childhood.

By Denise Lavoie

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