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Charlottesville: James Fields guilty of murder for driving auto into crowd

08 December 2018

The jury deliberated for about seven hours before convicting James Fields, 21, of all charges stemming from the deadly attack that occurred after police had declared an unlawful assembly and cleared a city park of white supremacists gathered for the Unite the Right rally.

John Hill, Fields' attorney, attempted to argue that he became scared by the violence at the rally, panicked, and drove into the group. Under Virginia law, jurors can recommend from 20 years to life in prison on the first-degree murder charge.

In it, Fields said that he was defending himself from "a violent mob of terrorists".

He was found guilty on all of the charges he was facing, ABC affiliate WSET reports, which included first-degree murder as well as eight other charges relating to injuries and one relating to fleeing the scene of an accident.

Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, was demonstrating with dozens of others against the "Unite the Right" rally when Fields drove his vehicle into the crowd after a day of tense clashes between members of alt-right groups and those opposed to their presence.

While the fact Fields had struck the protesters in his Dodge Challenger was not contested, his lawyers and prosecutors had offered contrasting narratives over his state of mind and intentions that day.

Prosecutor Nina-Alice Antony described Fields as a hate-filled man who idled his auto for three minutes before backing up and speeding his vehicle into the crowd, Fox News reported.

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"Today, we have reclaimed our streets", local activist Rosia Parker proclaimed at a Charlottesville memorial for Heyer, according to The Daily Progress.

Fields had driven to Charlottesville from his home in OH to take part in the "Unite the Right" demonstration, which saw hundreds of neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan members march through the university town to protest the removal of a statue of a Confederate War general. When Fields' mother responded, she noted how Heyer's mother Susan Bro "lost her daughter".

Hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis and other white nationalists had streamed into the college town of Charlottesville for one of the largest gatherings of white supremacists in a decade.

In response to the violence, President Trump said there was "blame on both sides".

One of Fields' former teachers said he was known in high school for being fascinated with Nazism and idolising Adolf Hitler.

Earlier in the trial, a recording of a jailhouse phone call that Fields had with his mother in March was played in court. She also made reference to a text message that he sent a day before the rally.

Antony also repeatedly reminded jurors about a meme Fields posted on Instagram three months before the crash. 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".

Charlottesville: James Fields guilty of murder for driving auto into crowd