The man convicted of state murder charges in the 2017 death of a woman at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal felony charges.
In federal court in Charlottesville, James Alex Fields Jr., 21, of Maumee, Ohio, pleaded guilty to 29 charges, including one count of a hate crime resulting in death.
As part of a plea deal, he admitted that he plowed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counterprotesters at the rally and did so with the intent of killing people. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed in the attack and more than 30 people were injured. His plea and admission spared him the death penalty.
Attorney General William Barr called the crimes “acts of domestic terrorism.”
“In the aftermath of the mass murder in New Zealand earlier this month, we are reminded that a diverse and pluralistic community such as ours can have zero tolerance for violence on the basis of race, religion, or association with people of other races and religions,” Mr. Barr said Wednesday in a statement.
Fields initially faced 30 federal charges, including one that carried a possible death sentence. Prosecutors agreed to drop the most serious charge if he pleaded guilty to the other 29.
He pleaded guilty to one count of a hate crime act that resulted in death and 28 counts of hate crime acts that caused bodily injury. Each count carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine of $250,0000, the Justice Department said.
Sentencing has been set for July 3.
Jurors in his state trial in December found Fields guilty of murder and other crimes, and recommended a prison sentence of 419 years, but a judge has yet to rule on the punishment. Sentencing for the state convictions is scheduled for July 15.
The “Unite the Right” rally drew hundreds of white nationalists to Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Hundreds more turned out to protest against the white nationalists.
Fields’ car attack came after violent brawling between the two sides prompted police to disband the crowds. He admitted plowing into the crowd because of the “actual and perceived” race color, national origin and religion of the protesters.
President Trump sparked a national uproar when he blamed the violence at the rally on “both sides,” a statement critics saw as a refusal to condemn white nationalism.
After Wednesday’s hearing in Charlottesville, Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, said she and Heyer’s father agreed that they did not want prosecutors to seek the death penalty.
“There’s no point in killing him,” she said. “It would not bring back Heather.”
⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.