CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — The white supremacist convicted of murdering anti-racist protester Heather Heyer at 2017's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison.
James Alex Fields Jr. was found guilty of first-degree murder on Friday for ramming his car into a crowd of people at the rally in 2017, killing Heyer and injuring scores of other counterprotesters at the white nationalist rally. He was also found guilty of five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of failing to stop at the scene of an accident involving a death.
The judge accepted the jury's recommendation of a life sentence for the first-degree murder of Heyer, and an additional 419 years and a $480,000 fine. Victims wept in court as the sentence was read. A formal sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 29.
His sentencing came after a day of emotional testimony that included Heyer's mother, Susan Bro.
"In the end, the hands of justice say that he needs to be kept away from society for a while, and I’m content with that," she said outside court Tuesday. "Justice has him, my daughter is still not here, and the survivors still have their wounds."
Bro added that she thinks Fields needs help.
"I don’t hate [James Fields], but my god the kid’s messed up. He needs help," she said. "Put him away, I’m sorry, but he should not be out in society, and I think the jury could see that."
She added that she thought her daughter would "be excited that hate did not win, that social justice does move forward."
Fields must still stand trial for federal hate crime charges next year. In that case, he faces the death penalty.
"Hopefully, the outcome achieved today is Charlottesville’s small part in rejecting and holding accountable those whose violent acts against others are fueled by hatred," prosecuting attorney Joe Platania told reporters.
Defense attorneys did not speak to reporters.
In a dramatic recording of a phone call he made to his mother from jail, Fields said "it doesn't fucking matter" that Heyer died. He also referred to Bro as "the enemy" and "one of those anti-white communists."
Since Heyer's death, Bro has taken up the mantle of her daughter’s anti-racist activism, appearing at the 2017 Video Music Awards and establishing the Heather Heyer Foundation.
"Heather was full of love, justice, and fairness," Bro said before the sentencing. "Mr. Fields tried to silence her. I refuse to allow that."