James Alex Fields Jr. pleaded not guilty on Thursday to 30 hate crime charges in the Aug. 12 car attack that killed Heather Heyer and injured dozens of others.
Wearing a loose-fitting striped jail jumpsuit and speaking in a flat voice, Fields, 21, of Maumee, Ohio, told U.S. District Magistrate Judge Joel Hoppe that he understood the charges against him and that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Fields also told the judge that his highest level of education is a high school diploma and that he had worked as a security guard.
In the days and months leading up to the white nationalist rally, “Fields expressed and promoted his belief that white people are superior to other races and people; expressed support of the social and racial policies of Adolf Hitler and Nazi-era Germany, including the Holocaust; and espoused violence against African-Americans, Jewish people and numbers of other racial, ethnic and religious groups he perceived to be non-white,” according to the indictment.
Fields is charged with one count of a hate crime resulting in the death of Heyer; 28 counts of hate crime acts causing bodily injury and involving an attempt to kill; and one count of racially motivated violent interference with a federally protected activity, resulting in Heyer’s death.
If convicted, Fields could face up to life in prison or the death penalty, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Kavanaugh.
According to the indictment, Fields drove his gray Dodge Challenger onto the Fourth Street crossing of the Downtown Mall as a “racially and ethnically diverse crowd” of Unite the Right rally counter protesters gathered at the intersection of Fourth Street Southeast and East Water Street.
Prosecutors allege that Fields slowly drove toward the crowd and stopped. After idling for a few moments, Fields slowly reversed to the top of the hill near the intersection of Fourth and Market streets and then accelerated di-rectly into the crowd, the indictment states. Fields’ car stopped only when it struck another vehicle near the intersection of Fourth and Water streets. He then quickly reversed and fled the scene, the indictment states. Authorities stopped the vehicle on Monticello Avenue near Interstate 64.
Hoppe appointed Lisa Lorish, an assistant federal public defender, to represent Fields. Local attorney Denise Lunsford, who currently represents Fields in the state’s criminal case, also will represent him in the federal case. Because Fields is facing a capital charge, he is entitled to more than one attorney, according to Hoppe.
In Charlottesville, Fields faces one charge of first-degree murder; five charges of malicious wounding; three charges of aggravated malicious wounding and one charge of failing to stop at an accident.
Hoppe also ordered that Fields be held in detention before his trial, based on the nature of the charges. Fields’ attorneys did not request his release.
A federal trial date has not yet been set. Fields is scheduled to go to trial in Charlottesville Circuit Court in November.