The man accused of ramming his car into a group of counter-protesters at last year’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a woman and injuring dozens of others was indicted Wednesday on federal hate crime charges
The indictment, filed in Virginia, accuses James Alex Fields, Jr. of 30 hate-crime-related counts in the incident that resulted in the death of young paralegal Heather Heyer. A Justice Department spokesman confirmed to TPM that Fields now faces penalties of up to life imprisonment or the death penalty.
“The Department has not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty,” the spokesman said.
Fields faces 28 counts of “bias-motivated” attempt to willfully cause bodily injury by plowing through the crowd with his Dodge Challenger, and one count of “bias-motivated interference with a federally protected activity” for injuring victims who were peacefully protesting the white nationalists’ message of hate.
“Last summer’s violence in Charlottesville cut short a promising young life and shocked the nation,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Today’s indictment should send a clear message to every would-be criminal in America that we aggressively prosecute violent crimes of hate that threaten the core principles of our nation.”
As the indictment lays out, Fields was open about his violent, white nationalist views, allegedly using his social media account to promote “his belief that white people are superior to other races” and his support for Adolf Hitler.
On August 11, 2017, according to the indictment, he shared a photograph of Hitler with an family member before setting out from his home in Maumee, Ohio en route to Charlottesville, where hundreds of racist activists planned to convene to protest the removal of a Confederate statue.
At the rally the following day, Fields was photographed marching and chanting white supremacist slogans alongside members of white nationalist group Vanguard America, the indictment documents. That afternoon, alone in his car, he accelerated his car into a group of counter-protesters marching along a one-way street in downtown Charlottesville. He struck and injured dozens of people before reversing and driving away.
Fields’ indictment represents the first action taken by the federal government against the white nationalists who carried out a well-coordinated campaign of brutality at the “Unite the Right” rally. Fields and several other participants face state charges stemming from their actions at that event.