CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WWBT) - A Charlottesville judge upheld a jury’s recommended punishment for James Fields Jr, closing a drawn out, deadly and chaotic chapter in the city’s history.
Fields received a “second” life sentence, plus 419 years for plowing his car into a group of protestors at the unite the right rally in 2017.
That attack injured several people and killed Heather Heyer.
There is one thing the commonwealth, defense, victims and their families agreed on: This second life sentence for James Fields Jr. will not bring closure.
Those in the courtroom, however, say it does speak to the severity of this horrible act – a murder the judge says shook the entire world.
It took just over three hours in a hot, and sticky temporary court building for a judge to determine James Fields junior will serve a life sentence and 419 years in prison for his state charges stemming from the deadly 2017 unite the right rally.
Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, waited patiently a half hour before the court doors opened, cracking jokes and quoting her daughter— ultimately testifying last before the judge.
“I feel a little bit of relief,” she said after the sentencing. “I’m glad he’s been served justice.”
Inside the courtroom, defense argued Field’s mental health was not stable, stating the times he was monitored at 7, 10 and 13 years old.
But prosecution said those mental issues do not play a role in what he did.
“The defense is trying to minimize his actions,” Nina-Alice Antony said, saying this was a premeditated act with texts to his mother saying “we are not the ones who should be afraid,” and Instagram posts showing cars driving into protesters.
Judge Richard E. Moore agreed.
“Certainly anyone driving that car would know that anyone hit with it could die,” Moore said.
“This was an act of terror,” Moore said. “There was no evidence he was threatened … no evidence people were going to hurt him,” Moore said.
“The victims did not decide your punishment,” he continued to tell Fields.
Six other victims - now survivors - recalled the moment Fields drove his car into protestors nearly two years ago— and the everlasting effect those short moments will forever have on their lives.
Marcus Martin, one of Heather’s close friends, was hit two years ago.
On his way to court Monday, he says he saw a car just like field’s and it instantly brought him back.
“PTSD is an everyday thing. It doesn’t go away,” he said.
In court, Martin told the judge he is now irritable—a direct result of his injuries and post traumatic stress disorder. He says the trauma has taken a toll on his marriage, but he keeps an open mind.
It was at the end of Martin’s testimony that he demanded Fields look at him—which he would not do for long.
Judge Moore didn’t intervene when Martin called Fields a “f*cking coward,” although other victims and their families audibly agreed.
The commonwealth says the message from the judge is clear.
State attorneys— victims and the judge all said Monday, there is no place for hate in Charlottesville or anywhere in this country.
Fields said nothing during sentencing, only passing notes between his attorneys, who he smiled at as he left the court room.
Fields can still appeal, but he was already sentenced to life in prison last month on his federal hate crime charges.
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