Driver in deadly car attack at Charlottesville pleads 'not guilty' on hate crime charges

The 21-year-old driver of a vehicle that ripped through crowds of demonstrators advocating against the hateful undertones of a white nationalist rally last summer pleaded not guilty to 30 hate crimes in federal court Thursday afternoon.

James Alex Fields Jr. was indicted in late June on the federal charges, including a hate crime act resulting in the death of Heather Heyer. The 32-year-old paralegal died when a Dodge Challenger drove through a group of people calling for peace and equality amid growing racial tensions amid the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. last August.

Dozens of others were injured in the attack.

In a new filing this week, prosecutors said the FBI gathered more evidence in this case than they did in the Boston Marathon Bombing in April 2013.

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Charlottesville violence erupts as protesters and counterprotesters clash
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Charlottesville violence erupts as protesters and counterprotesters clash
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - August 12: A White Supremacist kicks back a smoke bomb thrown by counter protestors during clashes at Emancipation Park where the White Nationalists are protesting the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 12, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - August 12: A White Supremacist tries to strike a counter protestor with a White Nationalist flag during clashes at Emancipation Park where the White Nationalists are protesting the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 12, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Rescue workers assist people who were injured when a car drove through a group of counter protestors at the "Unite the Right" rally Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
People receive first-aid after a car accident ran into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017. A vehicle plowed into a crowd of people Saturday at a Virginia rally where violence erupted between white nationalist demonstrators and counter-protesters, witnesses said, causing an unclear number of injuries. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - August 12: Police, medical personnel, and other protestors attend to the injured people after a car rammed into a crowd of anti-White Supremacy protestors in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 12, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A woman who was injured when a car drove through a group of counter protestors at the "Unite the Right" rally is helped in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts?
Rescue workers assist people who were injured when a car drove through a group of counter protestors at the "Unite the Right" rally Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Rescue workers transport a victim who was injured when a car drove through a group of counter protestors at the "Unite the Right" rally Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A woman is received first-aid after a car accident ran into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017. A picturesque Virginia city braced Saturday for a flood of white nationalist demonstrators as well as counter-protesters, declaring a local emergency as law enforcement attempted to quell early violent clashes. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
People receive first-aid after a car accident ran into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017. A picturesque Virginia city braced Saturday for a flood of white nationalist demonstrators as well as counter-protesters, declaring a local emergency as law enforcement attempted to quell early violent clashes. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescue workers assist people who were injured when a car drove through a group of counter protestors at the "Unite the Right" rally Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A woman is received first-aid after a car accident ran into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017. A picturesque Virginia city braced Saturday for a flood of white nationalist demonstrators as well as counter-protesters, declaring a local emergency as law enforcement attempted to quell early violent clashes. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - August 12: A White Supremacist helps a friend after he was punched in the face during clashes with counter protestors at Emancipation Park where the White Nationalists are protesting the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 12, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - August 12: A counter protestor strikes a White Nationalist with a baton during clashes at Emancipation Park where the White Nationalists are protesting the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 12, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - August 12: White Supremacists and counter protestors clash at Emancipation Park where the White Nationalists are protesting the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 12, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A man is seen with an injury during a clash between members of white nationalist protesters against a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Virginia State Police move in as members of white nationalist protesters clash against a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
People struggle with a Confederate flag as a crowd of white nationalists are met by a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Justin Ide
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - August 12: White Supremacists rush forward with shields and sticks during clashes with counter protestors at Emancipation Park where the White Nationalists are protesting the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 12, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A white supremacists stands behind militia members after he scuffled with a counter demonstrator in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A white supremacists stands with militia members after he scuffled with a counter demonstrator in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A white supremacists stands behind militia members after he scuffled with a counter demonstrator in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - AUGUST 12: White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the 'alt-right' take refuge in an alleyway after being hit with pepper spray after the 'Unite the Right' rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. After clashes with anti-facist protesters and police the rally was declared an unlawful gathering and people were forced out of Lee Park, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is slated to be removed. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Members of white nationalists are met by a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Members of white nationalists clash against a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A white supremacists carries the Confederate flag as he arrives for a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Virginia State Troopers stand under a statue of Robert E. Lee before a white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A white supremacist holds a flag during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A member of a white supremacists militia stands near a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Virginia State Police officer aims during clash protests in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017. A picturesque Virginia city braced Saturday for a flood of white nationalist demonstrators as well as counter-protesters, declaring a local emergency as law enforcement attempted to quell early violent clashes. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - August 12: White Supremacists and counter protestors clash at Emancipation Park where the White Nationalists are protesting the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 12, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTESVILLE, USA - August 12: A White Supremacist with a White Nationalist flag during clashes with counter protestors at Emancipation Park where the White Nationalists are protesting the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 12, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Rescue workers assist people who were injured when a car drove through a group of counter protestors at the "Unite the Right" rally Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
First responders stand by a car that was struck when a car drove through a group of counter protesters at the "Unite the Right" rally Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Justin Ide
Rescue workers transport a victim who was injured when a car drove through a group of counter protestors at the "Unite the Right" rally Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Rescue workers assist people who were injured when a car drove through a group of counter protestors at the "Unite the Right" rally Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A man who was hit with pepper spray reacts during a clash between a crowd of white supremacist protesters against a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Justin Ide
White supremacists clash with counter protesters during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A white supremacist militia member stands in front of clergy counter protesting during rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A counter protest yells at white supremacists during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
A Virginia State Trooper stands guard at the crime scene where a vehicle plowed into a crowd of counter protesters and two other vehicles (rear) near the "Unite the Right" rally organized by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
White supremacists stand behind their shields at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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“Last summer’s violence in Charlottesville cut short a promising young life and shocked the nation,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, adding that the recent 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.”

Thousands of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and white supremacists overwhelmed the college town to protest local officials’ decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park. Tensions mounted as the day progressed and the event quickly descended into chaos and violence. The brutal car attack brought an end to the event, with officials forcing crowds to disband.

Authorities have said Fields — described by a former teacher as having a “fascination with Nazism and a big idolatry of Adolf Hitler” — drove his car at a “high rate of speed” through downtown Charlottesville, with the car striking several people before crashing into a minivan.

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Charlottesville rally victim Heather Heyer's memorial
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Charlottesville rally victim Heather Heyer's memorial
Car attack victim Heather Heyer's mother Susan Bro passes a picture of her daughter after speaking at her memorial service inside the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 16. 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - AUGUST 16: People embrace at the spot where Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others injured when a car slammed into a crowd of people protesting against a white supremacist rally, August 16, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Charlottesville will held a memorial service for Heyer Wednesday, four days after she was killed when a participant in a white nationalist, neo-Nazi rally allegedly drove his car into the crowd of people demonstrating against the 'alt-right' gathering. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Car attack victim Heather Heyer's mother Susan Bro is embraced by Heyer coworker/supervisor Alfred Wilson at her memorial service inside the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 16. 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Mourners attend a memorial service inside the Paramount Theater for car attack victim Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 16. 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Car attack victim Heather Heyer's cousin Diana Ratcliff fights back tears as she speaks at a memorial service for Heyer inside the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 16. 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Car attack victim Heather Heyer's mother Susan Bro is embraced by Heyer coworker/supervisor Alfred Wilson at her memorial service inside the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 16. 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Car attack victim Heather Heyer's mother Susan Bro passes a picture of her daughter after speaking at her memorial service inside the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 16. 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Car attack victim Heather Heyer's father Mark Heyer arrives for her memorial service inside the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 16. 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
People line up to attend the memorial service for Heather Heyer, who was killed at in a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe waits to make a statement after the memorial service for Heather Heyer, who was killed when a suspected white nationalist crashed his car into anti-racist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Car attack victim Heather Heyer's mother Susan Bro receives a standing ovation during her remarks at a memorial service for her daughter at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. August 16, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Car attack victim Heather Heyer's mother Susan Bro takes the stage to speak at a memorial service for her daughter at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. August 16, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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Earlier in the day, Fields was photographed with a shield baring the emblem for Vanguard America, one of the hate groups behind the contentious rally. The organization has since denied that he is a member.

A grand jury in Charlottesville late last year separately indicted Fields on 10 charges stemming from the violence at the August rally, including first-degree murder — that case is slated for trial in the fall.

Its not clear whether or not the prosecution will seek the death penalty in his case.

The maximum punishment for “Hate Crime Act Resulting in Death” is life in prison, but prosecutors also charged Fields with “Bias-Motivated Interference with Federally Protected Activity Resulting in Death,” which can be punishable by death.

Officials said the outcome of his case in Charlottesville Circuit Court will affect the “Attorney General’s death penalty determination.”

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