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Unite the Right Participant Guilty of Charlottesville Murder

James Alex Fields Jr.

James Alex Fields Jr., who joined in the racist, homophobic rally, was convicted Friday of killing Heather Heyer when he drove his car into counterprotesters.

James Alex Fields Jr., the white supremacist protester who drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Va., last year, was convicted Friday of killing counterprotester Heather Heyer and injuring many others.

A jury in a state-level court in Charlottesville found Fields, 21, guilty of first-degree murder and "several counts of aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding and leaving the scene of an accident," NPR reports.

Fields journeyed from Maumee, Ohio, to attend the Unite the Right rally, which was held August 12, 2017, and organized primarily to protest the plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park. Many participants espoused white supremacist views along with homophobic ones and other types of bigotry.

"Photos of Fields from that day showed that he at one point carried a shield and chanted homophobic slurs alongside members of a white nationalist group," the Associated Press reports.

Fields's defense attorney said his client was simply carried away and that he got into his car and sped away out of fear after law enforcement authorities shut the rally down. Lawyer John Hill "claimed [Fields] feared bodily harm after the violent clashes erupted between participants of the Unite the Right rally and anti-racist counterprotesters," according to NPR.

However, "prosecutor Nina-Alice Antony depicted Fields as an angry white nationalist who acted with hate and violence" when he drove his car into the crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal who had never participated in a protest before, NPR reports.

Antony also pointed out that a few months before the rally, Fields had posted a meme on Instagram showing a car plowing into a crowd of people and bodies, labeled "protesters," being tossed into the air.

A sentencing hearing for Fields is scheduled to begin Monday. He could be sentenced to life in prison. Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, is expected to testify during the proceedings, as are eight victims.

In addition to the state-level charges, Fields faces federal hate-crime charges, for which he could receive the death penalty.

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