A judge sentenced James Alex Fields Jr. to life plus 419 years in prison. Fields, 22, a known white supremacist, was sentenced on federal hate crime charges as a result of killing Heather Heyer and injuring at least a dozen others during the August 12, 2017, Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He decided to run his car into a crowd of anti-racism protestors on purpose.
The sentence, handed down by Judge Richard Moore, comes a month after a jury convicted and sentenced Fields to life in prison for 29 counts of federal hate crime charges after pleading guilty in exchange for not being put to death. The charges also include first-degree murder, leaving the scene, and malicious wounding.
According to the report:
“Judge Richard Moore followed a state jury’s recommendation in handing down the sentence. Under state law, he was allowed to go lower than the recommendation, but not higher.”
Although the judge followed the jury’s recommendations in Fields’ sentencing, it is still seen as symbolic, according to the report, because of the life sentence already handed down.
A law professor from George Washington University, Jonathan Turley, noted that:
“For his purposes, he has one life to give, so this is a largely academic exercise.”
However, the harsh sentence in addition to the original one may also be seen as a deterrent to future similar attacks by those wishing harm because of hate.
Fields showed up to the rally to help protest the city’s decision to remove the Confederate General Robert E. Lee statue. Heyer, Fields’ victim who was killed and the dozens of others injured were part of the counterprotests against white supremacism.
This is the same rally that elicited President Donald Trump’s comments about “very fine people” being on both sides, which sparked its own controversy.
Fields ultimately apologized for his actions, noting that he thinks “how things could have gone differently.” He also stated he regretted his actions during the rally. Those statements didn’t seem to sway the judges, however.
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