The Nazi sympathizer who drove into a crowd of protesters, killing one, last year in Virginia was sentenced to life in prison plus 419 years Tuesday.
A jury recommended the sentence after listening to an emotional statement from Susan Bro the mother of 32-year-old Heather Heyer who was killed on Aug. 12, 2017, when James Alex Fields Jr., 21, plowed into her and other people protesting the white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
“Her death was an explosion to the world,” Bro said in her victim impact statement. “We are forever scarred by pain.”
The verdict was reached after about four hours of deliberation over two days and Fields stood impassively, his hands folded in front of him, as it was read by a court clerk.
Prosecutors argued that the murder was premeditated and played videos that showed Fields backing up his car before barreling down a narrow street crowded with counter-protesters, injuring 35 people.
One of the people injured, Jeanne “Star” Peterson, said her lie has been a “living nightmare” since the assault where her spine was broken and her right leg shattered.
“I will be dealing with the aftermath of Fields’ choices for the rest of my life,” Peterson said in court.
Hours before the deadly attack, Fields, dressed in a white polo shirt and khaki pants, marched in the rally at the University of Virginia campus among other white supremacists, some wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats, holding tiki torches and chanting “Jews will not replace us.”
Fields had driven overnight from his hometown of Maumee, Ohio, to take part in the rally that protested the removal of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
After he left, his mother texted him asking him to be careful, to which he responded: “We’re not the one [sic] who need to be careful,” along with a photo of Adolf Hitler, whom he had long admired. Prosecutors showed the message exchange in court.
They also showed the jury two Instagram posts Fields uploaded showing a car ramming into a group of protesters, and argued Fields had decided to live out the sick fantasy.
On Friday, Fields was found guilty of first-degree murder and other felonies by the same seven-women, five-men jury. His lawyer argued he acted in self-defense.
A psychologist for the defense, Daniel Murrie, said that Fields has a long history of mental health issues, including volatile outbursts. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 6 and later with schizoid personality disorder.
Fields went off his medication at 18 and built an isolated “lifestyle centered around being alone,” Murrie said.
Judge Richard Moore will now take the verdict under advisement and has scheduled a sentencing hearing for March 29. Virginia judges usually impose the sentence recommended by juries.
With Post wires
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