Charlottesville White Supremacist Begs Judge for Mercy in Sentencing
|thenorthstar||Jun 24, 2019|
James Alex Fields, the white supremacist who killed an anti-racist protestor during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia has begged the judge for mercy in his sentencing.
The 22-year-old’s attorneys submitted a sentencing memo in court requesting a sentence shorter than life in prison. The memo claimed Fields should not be given a life sentence due to his age, a traumatic childhood, and a history of mental illness, according to the Associated Press (AP).“James did not come to Charlottesville with any plan to commit an act of violence. In the space of only a few minutes, caught in circumstances he did not intend to create, he acted in an aggressive and impulsive manner consistent with his mental health history and his age,” his attorneys wrote, according to CNN. “In a matter of seconds he caused irreparable harm for which there is no excuse. But this Court can understand his actions, without excusing them, as symptomatic of transient immaturity, and not consider them to be predictive of who he might be in the future with time and medication.” In December, Fields was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer and other state charges for injuring other protestors. A jury recommended Fields be sentenced to life in prison plus 419 years for Heyer’s death, NBC News reported.
Following nearly four hours of deliberation, the jury recommended life in prison, 70 years for each of the five counts of malicious wounding, 20 years each for three further malicious wounding charges, and nine years for one charge of leaving the scene of an accident. Jurors also recommended $480,000 in fines.Fields pleaded guilty in March to federal hate crimes and admitted to intentionally ramming his car into a crowd of anti-racist protestors. He avoided the death penalty for the federal charges by pleading guilty to 29 hate crimes under a plea deal. According to the AP, the federal charges to which the 22-year-old pleaded guilty mandate a life sentence under federal sentencing guidelines. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 28.
“No amount of punishment imposed on James can repair the damages he caused to dozens of innocent people,” his lawyers wrote in the memo. “But this Court should find that retribution has limits.”
Joseph Platania, the Commonwealth’s attorney in Charlottesville, announced in March that Fields will be sentenced on the state charges on July 15.Fields’ attorneys noted that there is a history of violence and mental health issues in his family. The avowed white supremacist allegedly suffered “trauma” knowing that his Jewish grandfather had killed his grandmother before killing himself.He was also raised by a single mother who is paraplegic; his father died in a car accident before his birth. Fields has been taking medication while imprisoned, the memo added. Many of the details of his upbringing and history of mental illness were redacted from public viewing, according to the AP.
Prosecutors argued against the sentencing memo, noting that Fields was recorded making disparaging remarks about Heyer’s mother as recently as May. They also documented Fields’ history of racist and anti-Semitic behavior, including keeping a photo of Adolf Hitler by his bedside.According to the AP, prosecutors argued that Fields’ history of mental illness does not excuse his actions and should not lead to a lenient sentence. “Any mental health concerns raised by the defendant do not overcome the defendant’s demonstrated lack of remorse and his prior history of substantial racial animus,” they wrote in court documents.
In August 2017, then 20-year-old Fields participated in the Unite the Right rally along with other white nationalists and neo-Nazis. The racist group descended upon Charlottesville to protest the decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Fields later plowed his speeding car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing 32-year-old paralegal Heyer and injuring others in the attack.Prosecutors told the judge that sentencing Fields to life in prison would help deter others from committing “similar acts of domestic terrorism,” The Guardian reported.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.