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Man changes plea to guilty over hate crimes in Charlottesville car attack

Man changes plea to guilty over hate crimes in Charlottesville car attack

He did not plead guilty to one count that carried a potential death penalty.


Alex Fields Jr was convicted in a deadly car attack on a crowd of counter-protesters (Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail/AP)
Alex Fields Jr was convicted in a deadly car attack on a crowd of counter-protesters (Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail/AP)

A man convicted of murder over a deadly car attack at a white nationalist rally in Virginia has pleaded guilty to hate crime charges in a case that stirred racial tensions across the country.

James Alex Fields Jr, of Maumee, Ohio, pleaded guilty to 29 of 30 federal charges stemming from the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017.

He did not plead guilty to one count that carried a potential death penalty.

Fields appeared emotionless, with hands folded in front of him for much of the hearing. He did not speak, except to repeatedly respond “yes, sir,” when US District Judge Michael Urbanski asked him if he was pleading guilty knowingly and voluntarily.

Judge Urbanski scheduled sentencing for July 3. Fields faces a life sentence.

Fields, 21, was convicted in December of first-degree murder and other state charges for killing anti-racism activist Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others.

A jury found that Fields intentionally plowed his car into a crowd of people protesting against the white nationalists.

The “Unite the Right” rally on August 12, 2017, drew hundreds of white nationalists to Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen Robert E Lee.

Hundreds more turned out to protest against the white nationalists.

President Donald Trump sparked a national uproar when he blamed the violence at the rally on “both sides”, a statement critics saw as a refusal to condemn racism.

The car attack by Fields came after violent brawling between the two sides prompted police to disband the crowds.

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During his state trial, prosecutors said Fields — who described himself on social media as an admirer of Adolf Hitler — drove his car directly into a crowd of counter-protesters because he was angry after witnessing earlier clashes between the two groups.

The jury rejected a claim by Fields’ lawyers that he acted in self-defence because he feared for his life after witnessing the earlier violence.

More than 30 people were hurt in the car attack. Some who received life-altering injuries described them in anguished detail during the state trial.

Jurors in Fields’ state trial recommended a life sentence plus 419 years, although a judge still has to decide on the punishment. Sentencing is scheduled for July 15.

Press Association

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