An Ohio man has been charged with more than 30 hate crimes, including intentionally killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, for his actions during the disastrous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
A federal grand jury in Virginia handed up the indictment of 21-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr., of Maumee, Ohio, Wednesday morning.
Along with the indictment, the grand jury issued a notice of special findings in the case, making Fields potentially eligible for the death penalty.
Fields is charged with one count of a hate crime act resulting in the death of Heyer; 28 counts of hate crime acts causing bodily injury and involving an attempt to kill; and one count of racially motivated violent interference with a federally protected activity resulting in the death of Heyer.
Officials said Fields, a young neo-Nazi who once rallied with the racist "alt-right" group Vanguard America, drove his car into a crowd of protesters on a downtown street in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The special findings said Fields acted intentionally when Heyer was killed and that he tried to kill at least one and possibly more people by driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
Fields faces first-degree murder charges in Virginia based on the same accusations. He is scheduled for trial in state court in late November.
“I hope today will also be a reminder to those who are motivated by hate and intent on committing violence; we are going to be there, just as we were in this case,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, who oversees the Charlottesville office.
It was unclear if Fields had an attorney in federal court Wednesday.
The indictment comes as white supremacist Jason Kessler plans a second “Unite the Right” rally. Kessler is aiming to mark the anniversary of the 2017 event with protests in Charlottesville and Lafayette Square Park in Washington, D.C., directly across the street from the White House.
At a hearing in December, state prosecutors showed a video of Fields’ Dodge Challenger driving with the flow of traffic, then slowly backing up and finally accelerating at a high speed in the direction of the crowd.
Prosecutors also presented additional aerial footage from the Virginia State Police helicopter that captured the attack and followed Fields as he fled the scene only to surrender a little over a mile away.
The federal indictment outlines Fields’ activities online before “Unite the Right.”
According to the indictment, Fields had multiple social media accounts on which he promoted white supremacist beliefs, expressed support of the social and racial policies of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, including the Holocaust, and pushed for violence against African Americans, Jewish people and other racial, ethnic and religious minorities.
As Fields prepared to leave Ohio on August 11, 2017, a family member texted him to be careful.
“We’re not the ones who need to be careful,” Fields responded, attaching an image of Hitler to the message, according to the indictment.
During the rally, Fields pulled his car onto Fourth Street in downtown Charlottesville as a crowd of counter-protesters gathered between two businesses on the narrow street.
According to the indictment, Fields pulled forward to observe the crowd, then backed up to the top of a hill before accelerating across a pedestrian mall and into the crowd, killing Heyer.
Fields hit another car, put the Challenger in reverse, then fled. He was arrested a short time later.
Multiple alt-right figures have been sued and several charged over the violence at the “Unite the Right” rally.
At least two lawsuits are pending and two men are awaiting sentencing in August for their actions that day.
The place where Heyer died has been renamed in her honor.
The area is also a memorial to Heyer, with people frequently leaving flowers and messages written in chalk on the buildings on either side of the narrow street.
Photo credit AP Images/Eze Amos