Charlottesville: Driver accused of murder due in court

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Aug 14 (Reuters) - A man said to have harbored Nazi sympathies as a teenager before a failed bid to join the U.S. Army was due in court on Monday to face charges he plowed his car into protesters opposing a white nationalist rally in Virginia, killing a woman and injuring 19.

The bail hearing for James Alex Fields, 20, arrested on suspicion of murder, malicious wounding and hit-and-run charges, was set to unfold in Charlottesville as the U.S. Justice Department pressed its own federal hate-crime investigation of the incident.

Authorities said Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when Fields' car slammed into a crowd of anti-racism activists confronting neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan (KKK) sympathizers, capping a day of bloody street brawls between the two sides in the Virginia college town on Saturday.

RELATED: White nationalist protesters lead 'Nazi-esque' rally in Charlottesville

19 PHOTOS
White nationalist protesters lead 'Nazi-esque' rally in Charlottesville
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White nationalist protesters lead 'Nazi-esque' rally in Charlottesville
Riot police protect members of the Ku Klux Klan from counter-protesters as they arrive to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Protesters direct obscene gestures towards members of the Ku Klux Klan, who are rallying in support of Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TEMPLATE OUT
Counter-protesters shout at members of the Ku Klux Klan, who are rallying in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TEMPLATE OUT
Members of the Ku Klux Klan face counter-protesters as they rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
A counter-protester is detained as members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Police detain a counter-protester during the aftermath of a rally by members of the Ku Klux Klan in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Counter-protesters lock arms in the middle of a street as police try to disperse them, after members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Police, clergy and free speech observers protect a man wearing a Confederate flag as a cape after he was surrounded by counter-protesters prior to the arrival of members of the Ku Klux Klan to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Counter-protesters help a man affected by pepper gas as police try to disperse them, after members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Police, clergy and free speech observers protect a man wearing a Confederate flag as a cape after he was surrounded by counter-protesters prior to the arrival of members of the Ku Klux Klan to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Riot police protect members of the Ku Klux Klan from counter-protesters as they arrive to rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TEMPLATE OUT
Counter-protesters lock arms in the middle of a street as police try to disperse them, after members of the Ku Klux Klan rallied in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in opposition to city proposals to remove or make changes to Confederate monuments, such as the statue of General Stonewall Jackson above them, in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Members of the Ku Klux Klan, standing near a tomato and and an orange that had been thrown at them by counter-protesters, hold a sign as they rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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More than 30 people were injured in separate incidents, and two state police officers died in the crash of their helicopter after assisting in efforts to quell the unrest. The fatal disturbances began with white nationalists converging to protest against plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the commander of rebel forces during the U.S. Civil War.

President Donald Trump's reaction to the clashes - the first major domestic crisis he has faced since taking office - ignited a wider political firestorm at the weekend.

Democrats and Republicans alike criticized Trump for waiting too long to address the violence, and for failing when he did speak out to explicitly condemn white-supremacist marchers widely seen as sparking the melee.

Trump was specifically taken to task for comments on Saturday in which he denounced what he called "this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides."

Under mounting pressure to take an unequivocal stand against right-wing extremists who occupy a loyal segment of the Republican president's political base, the Trump administration sought to sharpen its message the next day.

The White House issued a statement on Sunday insisting that Trump was condemning "all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred, and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi, and all extremist groups."

Vice President Mike Pence took an even tougher line against white nationalists in remarks delivered late on Sunday during his trip to Colombia.

"We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK," Pence said.

"These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms," he said.

Virginia police at the weekend offered no motive for the man accused of ramming his car into the crowd.

Derek Weimer, a history teacher at Fields' high school in Kentucky, told Cincinnati television station WCPO-TV that he remembered Fields harboring "some very radical views on race" as a student and was "very infatuated with the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler."

RELATED: A look at the Charlottesville rally

14 PHOTOS
Torch-carrying white nationalists chant Nazi slogans in march on campus
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Torch-carrying white nationalists chant Nazi slogans in march on campus
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - AUGUST 11: Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists encircle and chant at counter protestors at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - AUGUST 11: A White Supremacist helps another after he was hit with pepper spray during a clash between counter protestors and Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacist groups after they marched through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - AUGUST 11: Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - AUGUST 11: Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - AUGUST 11: Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - AUGUST 11: Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - AUGUST 11: Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - AUGUST 11: Young men hold up torches on the steps of the Rotunda as other Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - AUGUST 11: Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - AUGUST 11: Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - AUGUST 11: A group holds up a flag on the steps of the Rotunda as other Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - AUGUST 11: Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - AUGUST 11: Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists march through the University of Virginia Campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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Weimer also recounted Fields being "gung-ho" about joining the Army when he graduated.

The Army confirmed that Fields reported for basic military training in August 2015 but was "released from active duty due to a failure to meet training standards in December of 2015."

The Army statement did not explain how he had failed to meet training standards.

Fields was being held on suspicion of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and a single count of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, authorities said.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Charlottesville; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Lucia Mutikani in Washington, James Oliphant in New Jersey, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Mary Milliken, Andrew Hay and Paul Tait)

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