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Neo-Nazi pleads guilty to federal hate crimes in Charlottesville murder of Heather Heyer

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A man who drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia was convicted of first-degree murder for killing a woman in an attack that inflamed acial and political tensions across the country. (Dec. 7)
AP

James Fields Jr., a neo-Nazi convicted of murder in a car attack on an anti-racism activist after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, pleaded guilty Wednesday to 29 federal hate crime charges.

Under the terms of the agreement, one additional charge, which could have brought the death penalty, was dropped, according to The Daily Progress.

Fields, of Maumee, Ohio, was convicted in December on state murder charges for killing Heather Heyer by driving his car into a crowd of counter protesters who were leaving the 2017 rally. More than 30 people were hurt in the attack.

The plea deal on Wednesday means there will be no trial on federal charges. Fields had pleaded not guilty to the federal counts last year and could face a life sentence.

At the hearing, Fields sat with hands folded in front of him for much of the time. He only spoke to respond repeatedly with a “yes, sir,” when U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski asked him if he was pleading guilty knowingly and voluntarily.  Urbanski scheduled sentencing for July 3.

Fields, who was described by a former teacher as an admirer of Adolf Hitler, had attended the Unite the Right rally where hundreds of white nationalists were protesting plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park.

The rally, in turn, drew hundreds of activists, like Heyer, to protest the white nationalist gathering.

Federal prosecutors described Fields as a Nazi sympathizer who has advocated violence against blacks and Jews on social media and who participated in chants promoting white supremacy and racist views during the demonstrations.

In his murder trial, the jury rejected the defense claim that Fields acted in self-defense because he feared for his life after witnessing earlier violence during the rally. Fields rammed protesters as they were leaving the demonstrations.

A judge will decide the punishment at a hearing scheduled for July 15. The state jury has recommended a life sentence plus 419 years for the killing.

President Donald Trump came under intense criticism over the Charlottesville rally when he blamed the violence on “both sides.” Critics viewed that as a refusal by the president to condemn racism.

Contributing: Associated Press
 

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/03/27/neo-nazi-pleads-guilty-federal-hate-crimes-virgina-car-assault-heather-heyer-james-fields/3291835002/

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