After finding him guilty of first-degree murder and nine other charges on Friday, a jury today recommended that James Alex Fields Jr. spend the rest of his life in prison for the carnage he caused here when he drove into a crowd August 12, 2017, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens more.
On top of the life sentence for Heyer’s murder, jurors recommended an additional 419 years, far exceeding the minimum penalties of 135 years the self-proclaimed neo-Nazi faced, and threw in a fine of $480,000 for good measure.
Outside Charlottesville Circuit Court, Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania said the trial had been a long time coming for the victims and their families. “We are unable to heal their physical injuries or bring Heather back,” he said. “We are hopeful they’re able to take some measure of comfort in these convictions.”
He also said, “We all have a role to play” in stemming the tide of hate.
Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, said she was feeling “so many” mixed emotions. She thanked the jury—and Fields’ defense attorneys—and said, ”But in the end, the hands of justice say he needs to be kept away from society for awhile and I’m content with that.”
She said there’s still a lot of social justice work to be done in elections, civil rights and Black Lives Matter. “I’m tired of catchphrases and I’m tired of people making nice-sounding words and nothing happens.” Bro founded the Heather Heyer Foundation to honor her daughter’s commitment to equal rights.
Bro said she doesn’t hate Fields, “but my God the kid’s messed up.”
Before recommending sentencing, jurors heard yesterday about Fields’ lifetime of mental illness.
Al Bowie, who was injured when Fields drove his Dodge Challenger into counterprotesters on Fourth Street, said, “I have a personality disorder, a borderline personality disorder, and I’ve never hurt anyone in my life. Racism and allegiance to President Trump are not mental illnesses. They are choices.”
A judge will formally sentence Fields March 19.
Here’s how the sentencing was broken down.
- First-degree murder: Life in prison and a $100,000 fine
- Five counts of aggravated malicious wounding: 70 years and $70,000 fine for each count
- Three counts of malicious wounding: 20 years and $10,000 for each count
- Felony hit and run: Nine years in prison.