Criminal Justice

Neo-Nazi who plowed car into crowd in Charlottesville, killing paralegal, pleads guilty to hate crimes

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The neo-Nazi who killed a paralegal after plowing his car into a crowd of racism protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes Wednesday after Attorney General William Barr agreed to drop the only charge carrying the death penalty.

James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, pleaded guilty to one count of a hate crime act that resulted in death, and 28 counts of hate crime acts that caused bodily injury and involved an attempt to kill, according to a Department of Justice press release. The Washington Post, the Associated Press and the Daily Progress have coverage.

Fields killed paralegal Heather Heyer when he drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at the white nationalist rally in August 2017. The federal charges call for a life sentence.

Fields also was convicted of murder in a state trial. Jurors recommended a life sentence.

James Alex Fields  mugshot James Alex Fields Jr. Photo from the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.

In the state trial, Fields had maintained that he was trying to protect himself when he drove his car into the crowd. But he admitted in the federal case that he drove into the counterprotesters because of their perceived race, color, national origin and religion. He also admitted promoting white supremacist views on social media before the rally.

During the plea hearing in Charlottesville federal court Wednesday, Fields said he has been treated for mental health problems since he was 6 years old, according to the AP. He said he takes medication for bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, schizoid disorder, explosive onset disorder and ADHD.

Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, said she was glad to avoid the pain and trauma of another trial. She also said she and Heyer’s father agreed that “there’s no point” in putting Fields to death, and it “would not bring back Heather,” according to the stories by the AP and the Washington Post.

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