Charlottesville driver faces federal hate crime charges

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James Alex Fields Jr.
James Alex Fields Jr. (Photo: Abermarle Charlottesville Regional Jail)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal hate crime charges were filed Wednesday against a man accused of plowing a car into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a woman and injuring dozens more.

The Department of Justice announced that an indictment returned Wednesday charges 21-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, with 30 crimes, including one count of a hate crime resulting in the death of Heather Heyer, and 28 other hate crimes involving an attempt to kill other people who were injured.

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“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.”

Authorities have said that Fields, described by a former teacher as having a keen interest in Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler, drove his speeding car into a group of people demonstrating against the “Unite the Right” rally that drew hundreds of white nationalists to the college town, where officials planned to remove a Confederate monument.

The attack came after the rally had descended into chaos — with violent brawling between attendees and counterdemonstrators — and authorities had forced the crowd to disband.



Fields had been photographed hours beforehand with a shield bearing the emblem of Vanguard America, one of the hate groups that took part, although the group denied any association with him.

Fields already faces state charges including first-degree murder. He has been in custody since the rally.