Published: Sat, December 08, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Neo-nazi guilty of murder over Charlottesville riots

Neo-nazi guilty of murder over Charlottesville riots

A white nationalist who killed a counterprotester in Virginia previous year was convicted on Friday of first-degree murder and eight other charges. His sentencing is expected to begin Monday, and he could be serving life in prison.

Instead, Fields' lawyers suggested during the two-week trial that he felt intimidated by a hostile crowd and acted to protect himself.

Fields was also found guilty of eight counts of malicious wounding of various degrees, and a count of failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal and civil rights activist, was killed and 19 were injured when Fields drove into the crowd on 12 August 2017.

Violence broke out as counter protesters clashed with white nationalists, prompting Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency.

Videos from several angles and photos from the Charlottesville attack show Fields flying down Fourth Street in his vehicle, plowing into protesters, then backing up and hitting more. The trial featured emotional testimony from survivors who described devastating injuries and long, complicated recoveries.

Remember that Unite the Right rally that went down in Charlottesville a year ago? Fields' mother, Samantha Bloom, who is disabled, left the courthouse in a wheelchair without commenting.

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Separately, Fields also faces dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes, which could result in the death penalty.

The car-ramming incident capped a day of tensions and physical clashes between hundreds of white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis who had assembled in Charlottesville to protest plans to remove statues of two Confederate generals, and groups of opposing demonstrators.

In response to the violence, President Trump said there was "blame on both sides".

The defendant was known in high school for being fascinated with Nazism and Hitler, a former teacher said.

Prosecutors portrayed Fields as an angry white supremacist motivated by hate as he plowed into the crowd, showing a text message he sent containing an image of Adolf Hitler and a meme posted on Instagram showing bodies tossed into the air after a auto plows into a crowd identified as "protesters".

After his arrest, Fields made a recorded phone call to his mother calling Heyers' mother a "communist" and "one of those anti-white supremacists".

The mothers of both Fields and Ms Heyer were present in the courtroom when the verdict was returned. A video of Fields being interrogated after the crash showed him sobbing and hyperventilating after he was told a woman had died and others were seriously injured. On Aug. 11, 2017, the day before the rally, she told him to be careful and he responded "We're not the one [sic] who need to be careful", along with a picture of Adolf Hitler.

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