The neo-Nazi fanatic who rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing one, at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 was sentenced to life in federal prison Friday — as the victim’s father said he forgave the man responsible for her death.
James Alex Fields Jr., 22, of Maumee, Ohio, was sentenced after pleading guilty in March to federal hate-crime charges in the Aug. 12, 2017, attack that left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and more than two dozen injured.
Fields’ guilty plea on 29 hate-crime counts allowed him to avoid the death penalty for the horrific incident that inflamed racial tensions nationwide.
Dozens of survivors and witnesses of the attack delivered victim impact statements Friday before US District Judge Michael Urbanski handed down the sentence in Roanoke.
Heyer’s father, Mark, called it “an incident I will never fully recover from” but added, “I want the court and Mr. Fields to know that after everything we’ve heard today that I forgive you,” according to Roanoke.com.
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Fields and hundreds of other white supremacists went to the infamous “Unite the Right” rally to protest Charlottesville’s planned removal of a park statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Heyer, a local resident and paralegal, was among a group of anti-racism protesters Fields slammed into with his Dodge Challenger.
Fields’ lawyers, who argued that their client has a history of mental illness, had asked Urbanski to consider a sentence of “less than life” in a court memo filed last week.
“No amount of punishment imposed on James can repair the damage he caused to dozens of innocent people. But this Court should find that retribution has limits,” his attorneys wrote.
Fields took to a podium in the Virginia courtroom and apologized “for the hurt and loss I’ve caused.”
“Every day I think about how things could have gone differently and how I regret my actions. I’m sorry,” Fields said.
In sentencing the killer to life behind bars, Urbanski said, “The release of the defendant into a free society is too great a risk.”
Fields has been convicted in state court of first-degree murder and other charges – and a jury recommended life in prison plus 419 years.
He is slated to be sentenced on July 15 on those charges.
With Post wires