When James Alex Fields Jr. and his mother spoke by phone on Dec. 7, 2017, he said Heather Heyer’s mother had been slandering him ever since Heyer was killed on Aug. 12.
His mother pointed out in response that Susan Bro had just lost her daughter.
“It doesn’t f----ing matter, she’s a communist,” Fields said. “It’s not up for questioning, she is. She’s the enemy.”
The conversation was one of several over text messages and by phone between Fields and his mother that were presented as prosecutors concluded their case Tuesday.
Over the last four days, prosecutors called more than 20 witnesses and presented hundreds of pieces of evidence, including graphic video of the Aug. 12, 2017, car attack that killed Heyer and injured dozens of others. Fields is facing 10 charges related to the crash, including first-degree murder and malicious wounding.
With the prosecution rested, the defense moved to strike all but one of those charges. Defense attorney John Hill argued the commonwealth’s evidence didn’t prove Fields acted with malice or intent to kill. The defense has not contested that Fields was driving the car.
Judge Richard E. Moore disagreed.
“I don’t know what intent he could have had driving into a crowd at that speed other than to kill people,” Moore said.
The defense lost another motion earlier on Tuesday as attorneys sought to block Fields’ conversations with his mother as unfairly prejudicial. Prosecutors said the calls illuminated Fields’ contemporary thoughts, and Moore agreed.
On Aug. 8, 2017, Fields texted his mother: “I got the weekend off, so I’ll be able to go to the rally.”
“Be Careful,” she responded on Aug. 10.
Fields replied, “We’re not the one [sic] who need to be careful,” attaching a photo of Adolf Hitler.
In March call from jail, Fields lamented his arrest and said he felt threatened before he drove into a crowd of counter-protesters.
“I went all my life doing nothing wrong and then I get mobbed by a violent group of terrorists,” he said.
He then claimed he saw counter-protesters waving ISIS flags. His mother said she didn’t think that was true and countered that waving a Nazi flag was just as bad.
Brent Meyer, a staff operations specialist for the FBI, detailed the process by which he obtained a search warrant for Fields’ social media profiles. On Fields’ Instagram account, Meyer found two images of a car driving into protesters — one sent as a direct message to another user and the other posted publicly.
During cross-examination, Meyer confirmed that the public post had later been deleted.
The prosecution also screened body camera footage of Fields’ arresting officer.
As he was arrested, Fields can be heard saying. “I’m really sorry” and. “I didn’t want to hurt people, but I thought they were attacking me.”
In his police interview, Fields opted not to speak in the interview room, but he asked if anyone was hurt. When he was told that there were multiple injuries and a death, he began sobbing and having what Detective Steve Young described as a panic attack.
At the magistrate’s office, Fields said he “felt like the people who were behind me” were coming for him. No testimony so far has placed any individuals or vehicles behind Fields before the Challenger was driven into the crowd.
Fields claimed he “didn’t know what to do,” and wasn’t sure what emotions he was feeling at the time he drove into the crowd. Damage sustained to his rear windshield later prevented him from seeing the lights of the police vehicle pursuing him, he said.
Before having his mugshot taken, Fields asked to have his face washed.
Defense attorneys then called other members of law enforcement to testify.
Tammy Shiflett, a Charlottesville school resource officer, had been stationed at Fourth Street and Market Street in the hours before the incident. After an unlawful assembly was declared and people began to leave, Shiflett said she was ordered to move to a different area.
She noted that from her vantage point around the time of the incident she could not see anyone north of Fourth Street. The car attack ultimately happened on Fourth Street between the Downtown Mall crossover and Water Street.
Charlottesville Detective Jeremy Carper and Paul Critzer, from the Charlottesville Sheriff’s Office, gave testimony concerning Fields’ vehicle. Carper described the contents of the vehicle, much like he did last week.
Critzer pulled Fields over after he had driven away from the attack. Critzer had followed Fields from Market Street to the intersection of Monticello and Blenheim avenues, noting that they passed four signs for Interstate 64 along the way. As he stopped Fields on Monticello Avenue, Critzer said Fields drove away again before he stopped a couple hundred yards away, where Critzer ultimately detained him.
Fred Kirschnick, from the Albemarle County Sheriff’s Department, was the last witness of the day and testified about transporting Fields to the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. He noted a yellow stain on Fields’ shirt that smelled like urine but said he did not notice the smell of pepper spray.
After Kirschnick’s testimony, Moore adjourned court for the day. He told the jury he expected the last of the defense’s witnesses to be called Thursday morning, adding that a verdict could be reached by the end of the week.
Daily Progress staff writer Katherine Knott contributed to this story.