- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2018

Searches executed in the case against an Ohio man charged with hate crimes connected to a fatal hit-and-run at last August’s “Unite the Right” rally have turned up more data than even that produced in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing investigation, attorneys said in a federal court filing Thursday.

The revelation came in a joint motion filed in a Virginia federal court by government prosecutors and defense attorneys for James Alex Fields Jr., 21, requesting a continuance, or a delay, in proceedings due to factors including the sheer amount of evidence amassed by investigators.

“The parties recognize that almost all prosecutions today involve large amounts of digital and documentary evidence requiring significant resources by the government and defense to review in preparation for trial. This case is different,” wrote Christopher Kavanaugh, a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlottesville, and Fred Heblich, a public defender representing Mr. Fields.

“As an example, as of the fall of 2017, members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation represented to members of the prosecution team that the amount of digital evidence collected in this case had surpassed that from the investigation into the Boston Marathon Bombing in April 2013. Moreover, in addition to digital evidence, this case also includes the extraordinary amount of discovery one would expect in a case involving at least 29 victims and numerous eyewitnesses, many of whom reside outside of the Western District of Virginia,” their motion continued.

The motion requests that the case be designated as “complex” under the Speedy Trial Act and that proceedings are put on hold until after a proposed status hearing is held in early December.

While the Constitution guarantees defendants the right to a speedy trial, federal law allows courts to grant continuances in cases that are “so unusual or so complex, due to the number of defendants, the nature of the prosecution, or the existence of novel questions of fact or law, that it is unreasonable to expect adequate preparation for pretrial proceedings or for the trial itself within the time limits established.”

Mr. Fields is accused of driving an automobile into a crowd of counterprotesters who were demonstrating against “Unite the Right,” a rally organized by a local white nationalist, killing one person and injuring dozens more. The Commonwealth of Virginia charged him in the incident’s aftermath with felony counts of murder and malicious wounding, and last month a federal grand jury returned a 30-count hate-crime indictment at the center of Thursday’s motion.

In addition to the tremendous amount of evidence collected, attorneys wrote in the motion that a continuance is necessary because Mr. Fields faces ongoing state proceedings in Virginia, and because he risks being sentenced to death if convicted of a potential capital punishment-eligible offense included in the federal indictment: bias-motivated interference with a federally protected activity resulting in the death of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old legal assistant killed as a result of the alleged automobile attack.

Mr. Fields entered a plea of not guilty Thursday to all 30 federal hate crime counts.

In filing the hate crime charges last month, the U.S. Department of Justice alleged that Mr. Fields participated in the “Unite the Right” rally and had “engaged in chants promoting or expressing white supremacist and other racist and anti-Semitic views” prior to the attack.

Jason Kessler, the architect of “Unite the Right,” is currently planning events on the rally’s first anniversary in both Charlottesville, Va. and Washington, D.C.

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