Charlottesville attacker sentenced to life in prison

The white supremacist who was convicted for ramming a crowd of counterprotesters with his car in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017 has been sentenced to life in prison.

James Fields Jr. was sentenced Friday for the killing of Heather Heyer, who died after he steered a Dodge Challenger into the crowd of demonstrators.

Fields was sentenced to life in prison, according to a Justice Department statement. 

He apologized in court before receiving his sentence, according to the Associated Press. 


In March, Fields pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges. He will be sentenced next month on state charges.

The incident occurred during the 2017 Unite the Right rally in which hundreds of white nationalists protested the proposed removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville.

Fields admitted to purposefully driving his car into the counterprotesters because of the "actual and perceived race, color, national origin, and religion of its members." He also admitted that those actions killed Heyer and that he intended to kill others.

"This defendant committed a hate-inspired act of domestic terrorism that killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injured over 30 peaceful protesters,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen in the statement.  “We believe that his life sentence furthers the Department of Justice’s substantial interest in prosecuting hate crimes and protecting the civil rights of all Americans."

Heyer’s mother Susan Bro said at Fields’s sentencing hearing that she hopes he spends life in prison but gets the help he needs. She added that she hopes he “can heal someday and help others heal,” according to the AP.

The wire service reported that Bro was one of dozens of people, including survivors and witnesses, to testify in the case. Fields reportedly appeared stoic and did not look at the victims. 

Keegan Hankes, interim research director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which researches hate and extremism, released a statement on the sentencing calling Fields " a remorseless killer and a domestic terrorist."

“When Fields slammed his Dodge Challenger into a group of counterprotesters following 2017’s ‘Unite the Right’ white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia... he helped define one of the many flashpoints of violent white supremacy in the Trump era," Hankes said.