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Jury recommends life in prison for man convicted in Charlottesville rally death

By Sommer Brokaw
A jury recommended a life sentence for James Alex Fields, Jr., 21, who was convicted of first-degree murder Friday for the killing of Heather Heyer in 2017. Photo by Charlottesville Police Department
A jury recommended a life sentence for James Alex Fields, Jr., 21, who was convicted of first-degree murder Friday for the killing of Heather Heyer in 2017. Photo by Charlottesville Police Department

Dec. 11 (UPI) -- A Virginia jury recommended life in prison Tuesday for a man convicted last week of murdering a counter-protester at a 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

James Fields, 21, a self-described neo-Nazi from Maumee, Ohio, intentionally drove his car through a crowd of people protesting the United the Right rally organized by white nationalists on Aug. 12, 2017, killing a woman and injuring 35 people, the Virginia jury determined last week. The jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, five counts of aggravated malicious wounding and one count of hit-and-run.

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In addition to life in prison for murder, the jury also recommended 70 years each on the five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, 20 years each for three counts of malicious wounding, and nine years for leaving the scene of fatal crash. That equates to life plus 419 years and $480,000 in fines.

Fields' formal sentencing by Judge Richard E. Moore is scheduled for March 29.

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Moore can impose a lesser punishment than that called for by the jurors, but cannot increase the sentence.

The jury rejected Fields' attorneys' argument that he acted in self-defense when he drove his Dodge Challenger through the crowd of counter-protesters crossing the intersection.

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The incident occurred in Charlottesville on a day when hundreds of white nationalists came to the city for a 2017 rally protesting city officials' plans to take down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Attendees of the rally, and a similar march held a night earlier, held torches and shouted racist and anti-Semitic chants such as "Jews will not replace us."

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The U.S. Justice Department has not said if it will seek a death sentence for Fields in a separate federal trial for alleged hate crimes.

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