Man who drove into Charlottesville crowd guilty of first-degree murder

Blanche Robertson
December 8, 2018

He is eligible for the death penalty if convicted of separate federal hate crime charges. He was also convicted of five founds of aggravated malicious wounding, one hit and run count and three counts of malicious wounding for injuring others when he plowed his auto into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Sentencing will begin on Monday when jurors will be given the option to recommend between 20 years and life for the murder conviction.

Fields killed 32 year old Heather Heyer and injured dozens more when he drove his auto into a group of people who were protesting against a "Unite the Right" rally gathered to protest against the removal of the statue of Confederate general, Robert E Lee.

The prosecution played videos that showed Fields stop his auto and reverse up a hill before commencing his deadly assault on a crowd of counter-protesters who were singing and celebrating after city officials had ordered the far right to leave.

Fields's defence team did not contest that he was behind the wheel of the gray Dodge Challenger when it struck activists who had descended upon the Virginia city to counter a "Unite the Right" rally.

On Aug. 12, 2017, a rally organized by alt-right groups to protest the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue turned violent.

"I am sadly not shocked, but I am appalled by this", he told The Associated Press.

During the trial, prosecutors introduced evidence that Mr. Fields meant to commit harm when he drove from OH to attend the rally, which featured neo-Nazis bearing swastikas and Ku Klux Klan members.

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Republican US President Donald Trump was strongly condemned by fellow Republicans as well as Democrats for saying afterward that "both sides" were to blame for the violence.

The defendant's lawyer, John Hill, argued that Fields had acted in self-defense and that he drove the auto into throngs of people out of fear.

They also showed the jury two Instagram posts Fields uploaded in May that showed a vehicle ramming into a group of protesters, arguing that he ultimately chose to live out that fantasy when the opportunity arose three months later. In a text message exchange with his mother before the rally, Mr. Fields was told to "be careful".

Earlier in the trial, a recording of a jailhouse phone call that Fields had with his mother in March was played in court.

The defendant was known in high school for being fascinated with Nazism and Hitler, a former teacher said. His mother replied by telling him to be careful to which Fields shot back, "we're not the one (sic) who need to be careful". He posted the meme publicly to his Instagram page and sent a similar image as a private message to a friend in May 2017.

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. A video of Fields being interrogated after the crash showed him sobbing and hyperventilating after he was told a woman had died and others were seriously injured.

A white nationalist who killed a counterprotester in Virginia a year ago was convicted on Friday of first-degree murder and eight other charges. No trial has been scheduled yet.

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