Charlottesville Judge Sentences Fields to More than 400 Years in Deadly Car Attack
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - An Ohio man already sentenced to life in prison on federal charges has been given even more time behind bars from Virginia.
James Alex Fields Junior appeared in Charlottesville Circuit Court for his formal sentencing on state charges Monday, July 15. Last month, he was sentenced to life in prison. Fields had entered a plea deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to 29 charges in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table.
Monday, Judge Richard E. Moore upheld the jury's recommended sentence of life in prison plus 419 years against the white supremacist who murdered Heather Heyer and injured dozens of others in a car attack along Fourth Street on August 12, 2017. Fields will also have to pay $480,000 in restitution.
"I'd say I feel a sense of relief. I know that this was a sad… a difficult situation," said Susan Bro, Heather’s mother, following Monday’s sentencing.
The attack happened after authorities ended the Unite the Right rally, which brought hundreds of white nationalists to Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The controversial event also drew many counterprotesters, which resulted in sporadic clashes between the two sides.
"This was an event that impacted not just the Charlottesville community, but it did have ripples throughout the state, throughout the nation, and frankly, throughout the world," Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Nina-Alice Antony said.
Jurors in the state case handed down a total of 10 guilty verdicts back in December: first-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, and a single count of failing to stop at an accident involving a death.
Judge Moore said video of Fields’ attack was one of the most chilling and disturbing things he's ever seen.
The court heard testimony from several of the survivors of the car attack during Fields’ sentencing Monday, July 15. Survivor Marcus Martin told the court about the anger and rage he still feels. He spoke directly at Fields, calling the Ohio man a coward and telling him he doesn't deserve to be on this earth.
"I've been living with that ever since this happened to me. I've just been a totally different person, and being able to relieve some of it and get it off my chest really helped a lot," said Martin outside the courthouse.
"We did not eliminate racism today by convicting James Fields. Charlottesville has some deep soul searching to do," Star Peterson said.
"There's no real closure that this process is able to provide. But hopefully, it's the first step forward for some as they try and begin to heal," Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Joseph Platania
Fields will serve the state sentences consecutively with his federal life sentences. He will however be eligible for geriatric release at the age of 60.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.