James Alex Fields Jr.
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James Alex Fields Jr. (born 1997) is a white supremacist and Neo-Nazi associated with the Alt-Right movement. He killed Heather Heyer during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 after being chased by a protestor with a gun.
Fields faces 20 years to life on charges of hate crimes, and is expected to be sentenced at a later date. On July 5, 2018, Fields pleaded not guilty to all 30 counts of federal hate crime charges, but on March 27, 2019, Fields altered his plea. Having originally pleaded not guilty on all charges, this was changed to guilty on 29 of 30 hate crime charges. Is speculated that this was a plea bargain to avoid the possibility of the death penalty as the option of capital punishment was removed from his potential sentence as a result of the alteration.
He was sentenced to life in prison on June 28, 2019.
According to Fields' high school history teacher, Derek Weimer, Fields was prescribed an antipsychotic as anger management medication after he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Fields told a judge that he was receiving treatment for bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Fields threatened his mother with violence on multiple occasions. In November 2010, she locked herself in a bathroom, afraid of her son. Fields's mother reported to the police that he had threatened to beat her, took her phone, struck her head, and put his hands over her mouth after she told him to stop playing video games. In February 2011, Fields's mother reported to the police at 5:20 a.m. that he had not come home; she said that he was wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Two hours later, she reported to the police that Fields "was home and acting lethargic"; he threatened to run away "if police came to the condo."
In October 2011, Fields threatened her with a 12-inch (30 cm) knife; she called the police the next day to say that her son had been "very threatening" toward her and that she was scared and did not feel in control of the situation because she was in a wheelchair. In November 2011, Fields spat in his mother's face and threatened her, and a woman requested that the police help Fields's mother get him to a hospital for assessment; the log for the call reads, "Mom is scared he is going to become violent here." Fields was subsequently arrested and held in juvenile detention.
Fields' supremacist beliefs date back to when he was in high school, where classmates claimed that he often praised Adolf Hitler and drew swastikas.
At around 1:45 p.m. on August 12, 2017, the 2010 Dodge Challenger impacted a crowd of counter-protesters while driving at a high speed. The speed was estimated between 23–28 mph (37–45 km/h) by a police crash reconstructionist. It audibly rammed pedestrians and struck the white sedan. The impact accelerated the sedan to 17.1 mph (27.5 km/h). The impact reportedly "[shoved] tons of metal into the crowd" and sent people "flying through the air" and over another car near the intersection with Water Street East. The struck vehicle also hit the maroon minivan ahead, "sending that vehicle into more pedestrians". A few seconds after the initial impact, some in the crowd began hitting the car with objects including a baseball bat, and Fields drove in reverse—hitting more people—with his car's front bumper "scraping the road." Pedestrians who had avoided the attack chased Fields along Fourth Street.
Fields backed up at a high speed for several blocks, and then turned left and sped off down Market Street. A Virginia State Police Bell 407 helicopter, that crashed about three hours later, was following the car and relaying its route to ground units. A deputy stopped and arrested Fields on Monticello Avenue, about a mile from the attack. The deputy waited for the police to arrive, and detective Steven Young came from the police department. According to Young, Fields kept apologizing and asked if anyone was injured. When Young told him that a person had died, Fields appeared shocked and started to cry. Young said that the Dodge had holes in the rear window and heavy front-end damage; Young said that the car was "splattered" with blood and flesh. A pair of blue sunglasses was stuck in the spoiler on the car's trunk.
Fields was initially charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit and run. Fields appeared in court on August 14, via video from jail, and was denied bail. Fields said that he could not afford a lawyer; a private attorney was appointed by the judge, as a public defender could not be appointed due to a conflict of interest.
On July 5, 2018, Fields pleaded not guilty to all 30 counts of federal hate crime charges.
On March 27, 2019, Fields altered his plea. Having originally pleaded not guilty on all charges, this was changed to guilty on 29 of 30 hate crime charges. It was speculated that this plea bargain was taken to avoid the possibility of the death penalty, as the option of capital punishment was removed from his potential sentence as a result of the alteration. For the hate crime convictions, Fields was sentenced to life in prison on June 28, 2019.