Court certifies charges for men charged in connection with Aug. 12 rally

James Alex Fields Jr. now faces charge of first-degree murder

Hearings were held Thursday before a Charlottesville General District Court judge for four men implicated in the violent events that occurred Aug. 12 in Charlottesville. James Alex Fields Jr., the 20-year old Ohio native who police say killed Heather Heyer when he drove his car into a crowded street on the Downtown Mall, now faces a charge for first-degree murder, among other related offenses. 

All the charges certified against Fields were in relation to the car attack. 

Fields has been detained in Charlottesville since he was charged with second-degree murder at the rally in August. The court decided Thursday to upgrade his charges, and he will face a grand jury.

The other men with hearings included Richard Preston, Jacob Goodwin and Alex Ramos. Preston was charged with discharging a firearm at the rally within 100 feet of a school. Goodwin and Ramos were charged with malicious wounding of 20 year-old DeAndre Harris of Suffolk in the Market Street Parking Garage and will face a grand jury next week. All three of the men had their charges certified.

Harris was also charged with felony assault in the violent incident, but his attorneys confirmed Monday that they filed a motion to downgrade those charges to a misdemeanor.

Protesters surrounded the courthouse yelling at the men as they entered. They shouted "blood on your hands" as Jason Kessler, white nationalist and organizer of the Aug. 12 rally, walked in. Kessler also reportedly yelled at Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy while entering the courthouse.

Other victims and witnesses of the downtown car attack attended the hearing, including Heather Heyer’s mother Susan Bro.

According to a release from the Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, each of these cases will go before a grand jury on Dec. 18.  

Pat Hogan, the University’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, sent two email advisories Thursday afternoon warning the University community about road closures downtown. He also said University and Charlottesville Police were in contact regarding potential situations downtown.

“These hearings may attract people from outside the local community,” Hogan said in the advisory.

The advisory was the first message from the University administration to students about an event in the downtown part of the city since an emergency alert issued Aug. 12 that mentioned there was a local state of emergency downtown. 

related stories