James Alex Fields Jr., the 20-year-old neo-Nazi who allegedly injured 35 people and killed one woman when he plowed his car through a crowd of anti-fascists at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August, has been charged with first-degree murder.
Fields was charged in the killing of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, a counter-protester who was peacefully demonstrating against white supremacists. On Thursday, prosecutor Joe Platania announced the charge against Fields had been upgraded from second-degree murder to first-degree, after testimony from law enforcement officials cited evidence that Fields intentionally crashed his car into the protesters. The sentence carries a 20-year minimum and could put Fields behind bars for life. State District Court Judge Robert H Downer, Jr. has allowed Fields’s case to proceed in front of a grand jury.
The Washington Post reports that Fields has also been “charged with eight counts of ‘aggravated malicious wounding,’ meaning that at least eight of the 35 people who were hurt suffered what Virginia law describes as ‘permanent and significant physical impairment.’”
Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, was present in the courtroom on Thursday, and indicated she was pleased with the upgraded charges. She told the Daily Beast that she keeps the location of her daughter’s grave a secret to protect her from Nazis. “It’s a symptom of hate in society that you should have to protect your child’s grave, for Pete’s sake,” she said. “So, I’m protecting my child now.”