James Alex Fields Jr. Pleads 'Not Guilty' to Federal Charges
James Alex Fields Jr. , the Ohio man charged in connection to a deadly car incident in downtown Charlottesville, is pleading not guilty to dozens of federal charges.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Ohio man charged in connection to a deadly car incident in downtown Charlottesville is pleading not guilty to dozens of federal charges.
Twenty-one-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. appeared in a federal courtroom Thursday, July 5. He is charged with one count of a hate crime act resulting in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, one count of racially motivated violent interference with a federally protected activity, and 28 counts of hate crime acts causing bodily injury and involving an attempt to kill.
Fields wore a gray striped jumpsuit and sat quietly, giving brief answers to the judge's questions. The defendant said he is currently receiving treatment for bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Fields told the judge that the medication he's taking does not impair his ability to understand the charges against him. His attorneys, Denise Lunsford and Lisa Lorish, made no request for bail.
Fields could face the death penalty if he is found guilty on the charge related to Heyer’s death. Prosecutors haven't announced whether they will seek that punishment.
Heyer was taking part in a counter demonstration march in the area of 4th Street when she was fatally struck by a car on August 12, 2017. Twenty-eight other people also suffered injuries from what authorities believe was an intentional attack by Fields.
"It's pretty rare that someone will go into court and plead guilty, and I kind of steeled myself for it. But I still felt a little punch in the gut when he did that," said Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother.
Fields was seen attending Jason Eric Kessler’s Unite the Right rally at Emancipation Park with Vanguard America, a known racist, right-wing group. The rally drew hundreds of white nationalists to the city to protest plans to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from the downtown park.
Court documents filed by the prosecution claim Fields promoted violence against blacks and supported Nazi-era Germany on social media. In a text message to family, worried about his safety at the rally, prosecutors say Fields replied, "We're not the ones who need to be careful."
The Associated Press contributed to this article.