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Neo-Nazi convicted of murder over Charlottesville rampage, faces life term

Neo-Nazi convicted of murder over Charlottesville rampage, faces life term

A Virginia jury on Friday convicted James Alex Fields Jr of first-degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

A state jury delivered a guilty verdict for James Alex Fields Jr. late Friday, rejecting his claims that he acted in self-defense during a "United the Right" rally in Charlottesville in August 2017.

The 10 charges Fields, 21, faced in this trial in the Charlottesville City Circuit Court are separate from the 30 federal charges he faces that relate to hate crimes.

The jury had the option of convicting Fields on lesser charges, but found he maliciously, willfully and deliberately drove into the crowd near 4th and Water streets. He faces between 20 years to life in prison.

Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, was demonstrating with dozens of others against the "Unite the Right" rally when Fields drove his auto into the crowd after a day of tense clashes between members of alt-right groups and those opposed to their presence. He was also convicted of five founds of aggravated malicious wounding, one hit and run count and three counts of malicious wounding for injuring others when he plowed his auto into a crowd of counter-protesters.

"I am feeling the best I have felt in nearly a year and a half", Wednesday "Al" Bowie, one of the survivors of the attack whose pelvis was shattered in six places, told AFP.

Fields is an avowed supporter of neo-Nazi beliefs.

"You can't do that based on the fact that he holds extreme right-wing views", she said.

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White nationalist Richard Spencer, who had been scheduled to speak at the Unite the Right rally, described the verdict as a "miscarriage of justice".

The controversy grew when Trump said there were some "very bad people" on both sides, but that some who came out to protest the removal of Charlottesville's Robert E. Lee statue were "fine people".

Fields was photographed hours before last year's attack carrying a shield with the emblem of a far-right hate group, and people who knew him in high school have said he expressed Nazi sympathies as a student.

They also showed the jury two Instagram posts Fields uploaded in May that showed a vehicle ramming into a group of protesters, arguing that he ultimately chose to live out that fantasy when the opportunity arose three months later.

Jeanne "Star" Peterson told the court she was fast on her feet till her right leg was run over by Fields's vehicle.

In order to build their case of a pre-meditated attack, prosecutors presented a text Fields sent to his mother before departing for the rally after she had asked him to be careful.

"This is the best I've been in a year and a half", Bowie said. Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, and eight victims are anticipated to testify before Fields' sentencing.