WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal hate crime charges have been filed against a man accused of plowing a car into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a woman and injuring dozens more. The Department of Justice announced that an indictment returned Wednesday charges 21-year-old James Alex Fields of Ohio with 30 crimes, including one count of a hate crime resulting in the death of Heather Heyer, and 28 other hate crimes involving an attempt to kill other people who were injured. Fields already faces state charges of first-degree murder and other crimes. Fields was photographed hours before the attack with a shield bearing the emblem of one of the hate groups taking part in the rally. He has been in custody since then.
From the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia: Charlottesville, VIRGINIA – A federal grand jury sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville today charged an Ohio man with federal hate crimes, including a hate crime act that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, for his actions during the Aug. 12, 2017 “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division, United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen of the Western District of Virginia, and Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Division Adam S. Lee, made the announcement.
James Alex Fields Jr., 21, of Maumee, Ohio, was charged in an indictment returned earlier today with:
one count of a hate crime act resulting in the death of Heather Heyer (18 U.S.C. § 249);
28 counts of hate crime acts causing bodily injury and involving an attempt to kill (18 U.S.C. § 249); and
one count of racially motivated violent interference with a federally protected activity (18 U.S.C. § 245(b)(2)), resulting in the death of Heather Heyer, for driving his car into a crowd of protestors on a downtown street in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“At the Department of Justice, we remain resolute that hateful ideologies will not have the last word and that their adherents will not get away with violent crimes against those they target,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “Last summer’s violence in Charlottesville cut short a promising young life and shocked the nation. Today’s indictment should send a clear message to every would-be criminal in America that we aggressively prosecute violent crimes of hate that threaten the core principles of our nation. I want to thank the FBI as well as our fabulous prosecutors Stephen Curran, Christopher Kavanaugh, and Rachel Kincaid for their hard work on this case.”
“As this case indicates, our office will aggressively prosecute hate crimes and other civil-rights offenses committed because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any individual or group,” U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen stated. “We are grateful to the FBI and our state and local law-enforcement colleagues who conducted the parallel federal and state investigations in a cooperative fashion, enabling us to vindicate this critical federal interest.”
“Hatred and violence have no place in our communities,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The investigation of hate crimes is a top priority of the FBI, and we will continue to work with our partners to ensure those who perpetrate such despicable acts are held accountable.”
“The events of Aug. 12, 2017, in Charlottesville are a grim reminder of why the FBI prioritizes its investigations of civil rights violations among the top of its criminal programs. I hope today will also be a reminder to those who are motivated by hate and intent on committing violence; we are going to be there, just as we were in this case,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Adam S. Lee of the Richmond Division, who also oversees the office in Charlottesville. “I want to thank the Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for their outstanding partnership, my team of FBI agents and analysts who worked tirelessly to put the case together, and the business owners and residents of Charlottesville who worked with us and provided a massive volume of evidence in this case.”
According to the indictment, on or before Aug. 8, 2017, Fields decided to attend the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Unite the Right rally was scheduled to occur on Aug. 12, 2017, at Emancipation Park and was widely publicized on social media and internet sites associated with white supremacist individuals and groups.
On the morning of Aug. 12, 2017, Fields arrived in and around the vicinity of Emancipation Park in Charlottesville. Multiple groups and individuals, including Fields, engaged in chants promoting or expressing white supremacist and other racist and anti-Semitic views. After an “unlawful assembly” was declared, rally participants, including Fields, dispersed the area. Fields returned to his vehicle and soon after drove to the vicinity of the intersection of Fourth and East Market streets in downtown Charlottesville.
As alleged in the indictment, Fields drove his car onto Fourth Street, a narrow, downhill, one-way street in downtown Charlottesville. At around the same time, a racially and ethnically diverse crowd of individuals was gathered at the bottom of the hill, at the intersection of Fourth and East Water streets. The indictment alleges that Fields slowly proceeded in his vehicle toward the crowd, stopped, and then observed the crowd while idling in his vehicle. Many of the individuals in the crowd were chanting and carrying signs promoting equality and protesting against racial and other forms of discrimination. With no vehicle behind him, Fields slowly reversed his vehicle to the top of the hill near the intersection of Fourth and Market streets. Fields then rapidly accelerated, ran through a stop sign and across a raised pedestrian mall, and drove directly into the crowd, striking numerous individuals, killing Heather Heyer, and injuring many others. Fields’s vehicle stopped only when it struck another vehicle near the intersection of Fourth and Water streets. He then rapidly reversed his vehicle and fled the scene.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. United States Attorney Thomas T. Cullen, Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh and Stephen Curran and Rachel Kincaid, trial attorneys with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, are prosecuting the case for the United States.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.