The Ohio man charged with driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at last year’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., and causing the death of Heather Heyer plans to argue that he was acting in self-defense at the time.
James Alex Fields Jr., 21, faces 10 state charges including first-degree murder and malicious wounding. He also faces 30 federal hate crime charges, which could result in the death penalty, USA Today reports. Authorities say Fields drove his car into a crowd of people protesting the Unite the Right rally on Aug. 12, 2017. Dozens of people were injured in the incident and Heyer, 32, was killed as a result.
During jury selection on Monday, Fields’ attorney John Hill hinted at the prospective defense when he told prospective jurors that evidence would be presented to show Fields ‘thought he was acting in self-defense” at the time of the incident.
In the indictment, federal prosecutors described Fields as a Nazi sympathizer who advocated for violence against blacks and Jews on social media. He is said to have participated in chants promoting white supremacy and racism at the Unite the Right rally.
The indictment also accuses Fields of driving to where he knew the counterprotest was taking place after the rally dispersed.
“Fields then rapidly accelerated, ran through a stop sign and across a raised pedestrian mall, and drove directly into the crowd, striking numerous individuals, killing Heather Heyer and injuring many others. Fields’ vehicle stopped only when it struck another vehicle ... He then rapidly reversed his vehicle and fled the scene.”
Just how he plans to explain those actions away as self-defense remains to be seen.