Awkward moments: Fields trial edition
When we crammed more than two weeks of trial proceedings into a 4,000-word story, some of the finer details didn’t make the cut. So we’d like to take this opportunity to share a few of the not-so-fun facts of the James Alex Fields, Jr. trial, in which he was found guilty of 10 counts, including first-degree murder.
- Defense attorney Denise Lunsford and ex-husband John Hill took on the case together.
- Lunsford argued her case in front of Judge Rick Moore, whom she fired as a county prosecutor when she took office as Albemarle commonwealth’s attorney in 2008.
- When it was time for final defense witness Josh Matthews to take the stand, he was nowhere to be found. Judge Moore entered a capias and directed the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office to find him. Matthews arrived hours later, and after his testimony he was arrested for failure to appear.
- “Crying Nazi” Chris Cantwell, who got that moniker after his visit to Charlottesville for the Unite the Right rally, just couldn’t stay out of the spotlight. Online news source Mic reported November 28 that he threatened independent reporter and activist Molly Conger, better known on Twitter as @socialistdogmom, who was covering the trial. “You will pay for your lies,” Cantwell wrote on Gab, a popular social media site among white supremacists.
- Former Richard Spencer bodyguard Gregory Conte, who previously came to town to protect the Crying Nazi during some of Cantwell’s earlier court proceedings, was spotted jotting notes on a legal pad in the courtroom. He now has multiple bylines for stories related to the Fields trial in Russia Insider—whatever that is.
- Because of limited seating in the courtroom and bad acoustics, more than a dozen reporters each day watched a livestream of the trial from the Levy Opera House. Technical issues left them in the dark several times.
- Speaking of bad acoustics, the Charlottesville Circuit Court is a nightmare for documenting trials. None of the many videos and exhibits were visible to the gallery because the monitor faced the jury, not the public. Local media organizations have offered to donate equipment to bring the courtroom into the 21st century, to no avail.
- On the 11th day of trial proceedings, after Fields was convicted and before he was sentenced, he sported a fresh high-and-tight haircut—the alt-right’s signature fashy style.
Quote of the week
“Please know that the world is not a safe place with Mr. Fields in it.”—Al Bowie, a car attack victim, in a victim impact statement to the jury.
Snow was expected on December 9, but the volume was not. Charlottesville picked up from eight to 12 inches, while Wintergreen reported a whopping 21 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
Local company WillowTree tried to run a Facebook ad promoting equal pay for female engineers, but the ad, which featured a photo of a woman wearing a hijab, was rejected. The reason? WillowTree does not have Facebook’s special authorization to run ads “related to politics and issues of national importance.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stayed a crucial U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit for the heavily opposed, $6 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline, causing Dominion to suspend all construction along its 600-mile route. And Attorney General Mark Herring and the Department of Environmental Quality are suing the folks building the other gas pipeline approved in the state—the Mountain Valley Pipeline—for repeated violations of state water laws.
David Toscano, the House of Delegates minority leader, has a challenger for his 57th District seat, which he’s held since 2005. UVA Batten School professor Sally Hudson announced a run last week on Twitter, and will face Toscano in the Democratic primary. And Tim Hickey, who works as a Greene County educator, has thrown down a challenge—also on Twitter—to Delegate Matt Fariss, R-Rustburg, who represents southern Albemarle.
Walter Amaya was sentenced to 30 years active jail time for the July murder of Marvin Joel Rivera Guevara, who was hacked 144 times before being dumped in a creek at Woolen Mills. Three other men have pleaded guilty in the MS-13 gang-related slaying.