Federal prosecutors on Wednesday filed federal hate crimes charges against an Ohio man accused of driving a car into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen others.
James Alex Fields Jr. who was arrested in Charlottesville in August, was indicted on 30 counts, according to the Justice Department. Charges include 28 counts of hate crime acts causing bodily injury and involving an attempt to kill; one count of a hate crime resulting in death; and one count of racially motivated violent interference with “federally protected activity.”
“[H]ateful ideologies will not have the last word and their adherents will not get away with violent crimes against those they target,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announcing the indictment.
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, praised the Justice Department for filing federal charges against Mr. Fields. But also blamed President Trump for failing to speak out more forcefully against the white national groups.
“This is a very important, robust and decisive indictment by career prosecutors in the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice,” Ms. Gupta said.
Mr. Trump had come under fire for his statements in the immediate aftermath of the Charlottesville rally. While Mr. Trump condemned the “hatred, bigotry and violence,” he was criticized for not calling out the white nationalist groups in his remarks. Instead, Mr. Trump said “many sides” were responsible for the chaos.
Mr. Fields, 21, of Maumee, Ohio, stands accused of killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old Charlottesville woman along with injuring dozens more. He already faces first-degree murder and other charges at the state level.
Heyer died and the others were injured while protesting the Unite the Right rally. The event drew hundreds of white nationalist groups to Charlottesville to speak out against the removal of a Robert E. Lee statute from Emancipation Park.
The attack came after law enforcement broke up the rally, declaring it an “unlawful assembly.” But as both white nationalist and protesters began leaving the event descended into pandemonium. Attendees and protesters began fighting with both sides swinging sticks at each other, punching and even spraying fire with an aerosol can and lighters.
It was at this time, prosecutors say, Mr. Fields left the area and got into his Dodge Challenger. He then allegedly drove toward the protesters, speeding toward a group of racially and ethnically diverse people, the indictment said. After plowing into the crowd, killing Heyer, Mr. Fields then speed away in reverse, according to the indictment.
Mr. Fields has been in custody since the August rally. His attorney, Charles Weber, did not return calls seeking comment.
Jason Kessler, who organized the rally, accused the Charlottesville police of not doing enough to stop the violence.
“All of the death, violence and injury was the result of the Charlottesville police standing down and allowing chaos in the streets,” Mr. Kessler said in an email to The Washington Times. “While CPD stood down, counter-protestors were blocking traffic, attacking cars with baseball bats and intimidating drivers with semi-automatic weapons.”
The Charlottesville police did not respond to a request for comment.