The neo-Nazi behind the deadly car attack on a crowd of counter-protesters at the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
BREAKING: James Fields found guilty of first-degree murder of Heather Heyer.
— NBC29 Fields Trial (@NBC29Trials) December 7, 2018
A jury of seven women and five men returned the guilty verdict Friday evening after approximately eight hours of deliberation, according to local media. In addition to the first-degree murder charge in the death of protester Heather Heyer, the driver of the car was also convicted on multiple counts of aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding, and hit-and-run. NBC 29 reports that he may face as many as six life sentences plus 70 years in prison.
During the trial, the driver’s intent to commit the crime ahead of time was shared with jurors. A premeditative element is necessary for a first-degree murder conviction, according to Virginia law. The Associated Press reported that the man behind the deadly car attack posted a meme to his Instagram account approximately three months before the crime that showed a car plowing into a crowd of people. Prosecutors argued the meme showed the driver’s state of mind prior to planning the attack.
At the “Unite the Right march,” the man who would later carry out the deadly attack was seen marching with a cohort of people carrying a shield emblazoned with the symbol of a white supremacist group. The Anti-Defamation League — which focuses on anti-Semitism in the United States — said the group the symbol is associated with has increasingly shown neo-Nazi tendencies.
In addition to planning the car attack, prosecutors showed jurors evidence the attack was racially motivated. The prosecution played a recording of the attacker calling his mother in which he attacked Susan Bro — the mother of Heather Heyer — as “the enemy,” saying she was an “anti-white supremacist.” The driver also apparently texted his mother a meme of Adolf Hitler and implied that counter-protesters at the Unite the Right rally would need to be “careful.”
While the driver was charged with murder, he was never charged with terrorism, despite the political nature of the attack. Citing the USA PATRIOT Act, the American Civil Liberties Union defines domestic terrorism as “an act ‘dangerous to human life’ that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.”
— jordan (@JordanUhl) August 12, 2017
The attacker’s sentence phase is slated to begin on Monday at 9:30 AM local time.
(Grit Post’s editorial policy is to not publish the names or likenesses of mass shooters or domestic terrorists in order to prevent them from gaining notoriety.)
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.