Charlottesville Car Attack Suspect Indicted on Federal Hate-Crimes Charges
WASHINGTON — James A. Fields Jr., the suspect in the death of a woman who was mowed down along with other protesters last year outside a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., was indicted Wednesday on federal hate crime charges in the case.
Fields, 21, was charged in the Western District of Virginia with one count of a hate crime resulting in the death of the woman, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, as well as dozens of other counts of hate-crime acts that carry a possible sentence of life in prison. He also faces first-degree murder charges in state court; the authorities say he drove the car that killed Heyer and injured others.
The violence, at a counterprotest to a rally that drew hundreds of white supremacists to challenge the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general, touched off a firestorm over race relations in the United States.
“Last summer’s violence in Charlottesville cut short a promising young life and shocked the nation,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Wednesday. “Today’s indictment should send a clear message to every would-be criminal in America that we aggressively prosecute violent crimes of hate that threaten the core principles of our nation.”
Federal prosecutors charged Fields with two hate crime statutes that require proof that he was motivated to cause harm to other people because of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin.
Sessions was one of the first administration officials to forcefully denounce Heyer’s death at a time when President Trump was being harshly criticized for declaring that “many sides” shared blame for the violence in Charlottesville.
Fields was among the crowd of demonstrators “engaged in chants promoting or expressing white supremacist and other racist and anti-Semitic views,” according to court papers.
After they were dispersed, prosecutors said, Fields drove away and encountered a “racially and ethnically diverse crowd of individuals” at the bottom of a hill who were protesting discrimination.