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Flowers surround a photo of 32-year-old Heather Heyer on August 13, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

James Fields, White Supremacist Who Murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Sentenced to Life in Prison

"The defendant's crimes were so horrendous—and the maiming of innocents so severe—that they outweigh any factors the defendant may argue form a basis for leniency."

Jake Johnson

The white supremacist who in 2017 plowed his car into a crowd of peaceful anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer was sentenced Friday to life in prison.

James Fields pleaded guilty in April to 29 counts of federal hate crimes in a deal with prosecutors, who agreed to drop a charge that could have resulted in the death penalty.

"In a separate case stemming from the deadly incident," the Washington Post reported, "Fields was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes in December by a Virginia jury that voted for a life term plus 419 years in state prison."

"His sentence in the state case is due to be imposed July 15," according to the Post, "meaning Friday's sentencing in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville was the first for Fields, an Ohio native with a years-long history of espousing racist and anti-Semitic views."

In a sentencing memo, federal prosectors said Fields's "crimes were so horrendous—and the maiming of innocents so severe—that they outweigh any factors the defendant may argue form a basis for leniency."

"This is particularly true in light of the fact that he has demonstrated that he feels no remorse for his actions," the prosecutors wrote, "and continues to espouse his hateful ideology."

Vice News on Friday reported some of the evidence prosecutors presented against Fields, who took part in the racist 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville that sparked counterprotests attended by Heyer and thousands of others.

For example, in the five months leading up to the attack, Fields tweeted or sent via direct message 30 images of Hitler and six images depicting the nerve gas that Nazis used to commit mass genocide. Prosecutors noted that he had a Nazi-era German battle flag hanging on his bedroom wall and a framed photograph of Adolf Hitler on his bedside table.

Prosecutors also included snippets of testimony from former classmates. One classmate recalled a field trip to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. "I overheard [James Fields] say, "This is where the magic happened," the classmate said. "He was happy in one of the saddest places I have ever been."

As more evidence of Fields's intent, prosecutors filed a memo last week to remind the judge that Fields had posted two memes in the months leading up to the August 14, 2017 rally showing cars running over protesters.

Fields's sentencing came as lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act, which would improve hate crime data collection and expand assistance to victims.

"Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer were killed on the same day, August 12, but one year apart: Khalid, in 2016, on his doorstep in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Heather, in 2017, on a crowded street in Charlottesville, Virginia," Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute, said in a statement celebrating the legislation. 

"While their murders were prosecuted as hate crimes," Berry said, "neither was reported in official hate crime statistics. These omissions demonstrate the need for improved hate crime reporting and data collection."


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