James Fields Jr. — the white nationalist who drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at the Unite the Right rally last August, killing one and injuring dozens — was indicted for 29 counts of hate crime acts and one count of racially-motivated interference in federally-protected activities, prosecutors announced Tuesday.
The indictment claims Fields carried out his attack because of “the actual and perceived race, color, religion, and national origin” of the counterprotesters on the Downtown Mall.
One of the Fields’ hate crime indictments is for the murder of Heather Heyer, a former paralegal at the Miller Law Group. At most, Fields faces life sentences for 29 of the 30 charges brought in the indictment. The Department of Justice will determine if it will seek the death penalty for the final charge, according to Brian P. McGinn, a public affairs specialist in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia.
In a press release, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he hopes the indictment publicly establishes the government’s stance on racially-motivated crimes.
“Last summer’s violence in Charlottesville cut short a promising young life and shocked the nation,” Sessions said. “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.
Fields was with second-degree murder, but the charge was upgraded to first-degree by a state judge. He’s also facing charges for malicious wounding and leaving the scene of the attack.
Fields’ three-week jury trial is currently set for Nov. 26 in the Charlottesville Circuit Court.