USA: Neo-Nazi gets life in prison for the Charlottesville massacre
James Alex Fields, the neo-Nazi and radical white supremacist who drove a car into a crowd of anti-racist demonstrators in 2017 in the US state of Virginia, killing one woman, has now been sent to prison for life by the United States District Court seated in the same town where he committed his crime, Charlottesville. The 22-year-old admitted his guilt in March in order to avoid the death penalty and also apologized for his actions prior to sentencing.
In August 2017, Charlottesville became the scene of a racist march during which hundreds of neo-Nazis and white racists paraded through the center of town chanting racist slogans, many giving the Nazi salute or carrying Nazi symbols. Clashes occurred when a crowd of locals assembled and made clear their aversion for neo-Nazi and racist ideologies.
The most tragic moment was when Fields drove a vehicle into the group of those demonstrating against racism and, according to eyewitnesses, plowed into people at full speed. He murdered Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old defender of the rights of minorities, and injured 30 others.
Fields, who is an adherent of the extremist group Vanguard America and calls himself a neo-Nazi, testified in court wearing handcuffs and a prisoner's uniform. He defended himself by claiming he had previously suffered from mental disorders, as well as being young.
The defense attorney argued that Fields had been traumatized by a family tragedy in which his grandfather, who was Jewish, allegedly murdered his own wife before committing suicide. Witnesses testified that Fields had held hateful opinions from his early youth.
During high school he and his classmates had traveled to Germany to visit the memorial at Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp, and during the tour he is said to have declared "this is where the miracle happened". While in custody, he referred to the woman he had murdered as an "anti-white communist".
Many of the people whom Fields harmed with the vehicle are still receiving medical treatment. Charlottesville locals and others have organized collections to help cover those costs.
"Every day I think about how all of this could have been different and how much I regret my actions. I am sorry," Fields told the court before sentencing.
In mid-July Fields is scheduled to be sentenced in a separate proceeding in state court. In December the jury in that proceeding recommended he be given life in prison plus 419 years.
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