Charlottesville, Virginia: James Alex Fields Jr., a neo-Nazi who rammed his car into counterprotesters of a “Unite the Right” rally in 2017, leaving one dead and dozens injured, was sentenced to life in prison plus 419 years in state court Monday.
Judge Richard Moore upheld a Virginia jury’s recommended sentence from December. He also imposed a fine of $480,000.
Moore said he’d never been involved in a case, as an attorney or a judge, in which so many people were injured at one time by one person.
“Today’s verdict is based on what you did,” Moore told Fields. “It was not a spur of the moment action.”
The death penalty was off the table under the terms of a plea deal reached in March on his conviction for federal hate crimes.
Fields, 22, was convicted of the murder of Heather Heyer in December.
During Monday’s session, victims made impact statements. Emotions ran high, and several victims sobbed and dabbed tears away with tissues. Star Peterson, who was injured in the attack, began her statement by addressing Fields.
“Hello, scum,” she said. “You look like a coward now that you’re not behind the wheel of a car.”
April Muñiz, another victim, said her mental health was severely affected by Fields’ crime. She said she switches from joy to terror in a split second since those were the emotions she experienced during the attack.
“I wake up most nights screaming,” she said.
Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, said she hopes Fields never sees the light of day outside a prison again. She said she was a survivor and she will continue her work with the Heather Heyer Foundation, which provides scholarships to people passionate about social change.
Fields, wearing a gray and white prison suit, twiddled his thumbs during the victim statements.
Wren Steele, a victim of the car attack. Both her legs and her hand was broken as she was thrown over a car and landed on the hood of another car. She suffered other injuries as well. @USATODAYpic.twitter.com/aVenDkaITZ
— Morgan Hines (@MorganEmHines) July 15, 2019
In June, Fields was sentenced in federal court to life in prison without the possibility of release for hate crimes.
Hundreds of counterprotesters turned out in 2017 to face an assortment of alt-right and far-right protesters rallying in the Virginia college town against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Fields traveled from his hometown of Maumee, Ohio, to attend the rally.
At the time of the attack, President Donald Trump blamed the violence at the rally on “both sides,” sparking further controversy.
During the federal sentencing hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski said life was the only appropriate sentence for Fields: “Protection of the public requires a life sentence without release.”
Fields, an avowed white supremacist, was “like a kid at Disney World” during a high school trip to a German concentration camp, federal prosecutors said.
FBI Special Agent Wade Douthit read grand jury testimony from one of Fields’ high school classmates who said he appeared happy when touring the Dachau camp and remarked, “This is where the magic happened.”
Evidence showed Fields’ actions on the day he killed Heyer were premeditated, Urbanski said at the federal sentencing.