The Associated Press reports that James Alex Fields, the man charged with driving into a crowd of people at a protest in Charlottesville, now faces a first degree murder charge. Fields appeared for a preliminary hearing, where Judge Robert Downer Jr. approved the prosecution’s request to amend the charge from second-degree murder. The grand jury must now decide whether to indict him.
Fields, 20, allegedly drove his car into a crowd of people protesting white supremacists on August 12, 2017, killing one and injuring several others. He is a former teacher and has an interest in Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, says The AP.
A white nationalist rally broke into chaos with counterprotestors and angry crowds, when the police had to force them to disperse. The white nationalists were targeting the city because it removed a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Fields is from Maumee, Ohio, and was silent at the court hearing. His defense attorney did not present any arguments at the hearing, but did cross-examine one of the prosecution’s witnesses. She asked if any of Fields’ computers, phones or social media accounts show any proof that he belongs to a white supremacist group, and the detective answered, “No.”
Just hours before the attack, Fields was photographed while holding a shield with the Vanguard America emblem, which is another hate group that was present at the rally. However, Vanguard denies being associated with him.
A former classmate told the press that Fields held radical race beliefs in high school, and idolized Hitler and Nazis.
Three other defendants also appeared in court earlier that day: Richard Preston, Jacob Goodwin and Alex Ramos. Preston is accused of shooting a gun at the rally; Goodwin and Ramos are accused of attacking a man in a parking garage. The judge certified the charges against them, and the cases will go on to the grand jury for indictment.
*Photo credit Charlottesville Police Department