James Alex Fields Jr. has been sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday for murdering Heather Heyer at the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.
Fields, 21, had driven 500 miles from his apartment in Maumee, Ohio, to participate in the August 12, 2017, rally of white-supremacist groups, where he marched with the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America. Later that day, Fields plowed his gray Dodge Charger into a crowd of counterprotesters in downtown Charlottesville, killing 32-year-old Heyer, and injuring dozens more.
In addition to a life sentence for the first-degree murder charge, the Washington Post reports that Fields received “70 years for each of the five counts of aggravated malicious wounding; 20 years for each of the three counts of malicious wounding and nine years for leaving the scene of a fatal crash.” This brings his total sentence to life plus 419 years, and $480,000 in fines.
Though Fields’s defense lawyers reportedly tried to paint the white supremacist as remorseful during the two-week trial — showing a video in court of the moment of his arrest in 2017, in which he says, “I didn’t want to hurt people. I thought they were attacking me” — phone calls and texts to his mother before and after the attack told another story. On his way down to the rally, Fields reportedly texted his mother a picture of Adolf Hitler after she asked him to be careful, writing, “We’re not the one [sic] who need to be careful.” And then, while he was in prison last December, he called Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, “one of those anti-white communists,” and said, “It doesn’t matter. It’s not up for questioning. She’s the enemy.”
After burying her daughter, Bro told reporters that she’d had to hide her daughter’s grave to prevent it being defaced by Nazis. “I don’t want other mothers to be in my spot,” Bro said, through tears and under heavy police supervision on the one-year anniversary of Heyer’s death. “I don’t want other mothers to go through this.”