More victims of the Aug. 12, 2017, car attack filed lawsuits in Charlottesville Circuit Court this month to seek payment from James Alex Fields Jr., who drove his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protesters, and several other white supremacists.
The two new suits claim that Fields and other organizers and participants in the violent Unite the Right rally acted negligently. Fields has been convicted of murdering Heather Heyer, who was struck by his car and died from the impact. He will spend the rest of his life in prison.
The progress of the suits, as well as several others filed just before or on the second anniversary of the deadly attack, will likely depend on the outcome of a federal lawsuit, Sines v. Kessler. The Sines case, which was filed by victims against many of the same rally participants in October 2017, is slowly crawling forward.
Lizete Short and six other people affected by the attack claim in their suit that Fields and other organizers and participants of the rally assaulted them, conspired to cause harm, helped incite violence and a riot and aided and abetted terrorism, as defined by Virginia statute.
“The murder and attempted murder of counter-protesters was the intended, likely, imminent and reasonably foreseeable consequence of defendants’ actions in furtherance of the conspiracy to incite violence and turn Charlottesville into a battlefield,” lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote in the complaint. “Thus, Fields and the other defendants equally bear responsibility for Plaintiffs’ injuries.”
Short was driving a burgundy minivan that was one of several cars stopped as a crowd of counter-protesters celebrated the flight of white supremacists from downtown after an unlawful assembly was declared. Short stepped out of the car to take pictures of the crowd on Fourth Street right as Fields sped down the road, according to the suit and previous testimony in Fields’ murder trial. She was thrown against the windshield and knocked unconscious as her goddaughter, Mehtab Jamalreza, and Jamalreza’s daughter and Short’s daughter watched. All four are plaintiffs in the suit.
The defendants — Fields, Jason Kessler, Richard Spencer, William Regnery, Michael Peinovich, Michael Hill, Matthew Heimbach, Brad Griffin, Augustus Invictus, Christopher Cantwell, Andrew Anglin, Elliott Kline and many of the organizations they have been involved in — are all embroiled in several other suits filed by other people affected by the rally.
Star Peterson, a counter-protester and anti-racist activist whose leg was crushed in the car attack, also filed a suit against Fields and Vanguard America, a white supremacist group that is now defunct.
Fields was photographed marching with Vanguard America and holding a black shield emblazoned with crossed fasces on Aug. 12, 2017. The group released a statement after the attack saying that Fields was not a member of the organization, but in the Sines suit, lawyers for the plaintiffs claimed that “Vanguard America ‘has in its possession’ potential evidence that ‘likely corroborates’ that group’s role in planning ‘the Fields car attack,’” according to a recent filing by a magistrate judge.
Peterson’s suit claims that Fields operated his car “negligently, carelessly, recklessly and with willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others” and crashed into pedestrians, including Peterson. His action caused Peterson permanent injuries, physical and emotional pain and substantial expenses, according to the filing. She requested $1 million from Fields and Vanguard America, jointly and separately, as well as punitive damages.
Other lawsuits from a man injured in an attack in the Market Street Parking Garage, a counter-protester of the rally, organizers of the rally and the widows of two Virginia State Police officers killed in a helicopter crash were also filed this month as the statute of limitations for the Aug. 12 events elapsed.