James Fields: Where is Heather Heyer’s Killer Now?

I’m Not a Nazi,’ the third episode of Netflix’s ‘Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies and the Internet’ as well as HBO’s ‘No Accident’ focuses on the recent prevalence of far-right and alt-right groups and takes a look at the horrific incidents that occurred during the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. James Fields, a man who supported the white supremacist cause, ran into a group of people, killing Heather Heyer and injuring several others. 

Who is James Fields?

On August 11 and 12, 2017, Unite the Right, a rally of white supremacists who were against the removal of a Confederate general’s statue, occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia. Later on, several counter-protestors arrived to promote equality and speak out against white supremacist groups in a reportedly peaceful manner. But alas, the protests devolved into utter violence on the 12th and a car rammed into a group of counter-protestors at high speed, killing 32-year-old local Virginia resident Heather Danielle Heyer and injuring multiple people in the process.

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The driver of that car was James Alex Fields Jr, then a 20-year-old, who drove down from his home in Ohio to attend the rally. He was arrested soon after the incident and charged with several state and federal crimes, including murder. Investigation revealed a disturbing past, with several 911 calls made by his mother where she accused him of threatening and hitting her.

Furthermore, it was clear that James was a Nazi sympathizer. A teacher from his school stated that he was quite interested in Adolf Hitler and Nazi-era Germany, which led to him developing a deep interest in white supremacy too. Furthermore, classmates mentioned remembering him drawing swastikas. According to the federal indictment against him, he supported violence against “African Americans, Jewish people, and members of other racial, ethnic, and religious groups he perceived to be non-white.”

While James drove all the way from Ohio to attend the “Unite the Right” protest, no evidence indicated that he was tied to any of the white supremacist groups at the rally. The authorities believed that on the fateful day, James came across an ethnically diverse group of people protesting against what he believed to be right and decided to drive into them, intending to cause harm.

During state court proceedings, it also came to light that just months before the incident, James had shared an image on Instagram that depicted a car running through a group of protesters. The prosecution then argued that James backing up before accelerating into the crowd on August 12 was evidence that his actions were completely intentional. On the other hand, the defense claimed that he acted in self-defense because he was scared as violence had already started erupting and escalating during the protests. In the federal indictment, the authorities stated that James’ social media accounts showed that he was looking to hurt minorities.

James Fields is Behind Bars Today

In December 2018, James was convicted in Virginia of first-degree murder, in addition to multiple counts of aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding, and leaving the scene of an accident. Then, in March 2019, he pled guilty to 29 federal hate crime charges in exchange for the death penalty to be taken off the table. So, in June 2019, he was handed down a life sentence.

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In relation to the state convictions, he was sentenced to life plus 419 years in July 2019. The legal proceedings weren’t done yet because a civil trial followed. In November 2021, a judge found James liable for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional harm against several defendants he hit with his vehicle. The other defendants included infamous white supremacists Christopher Cantwell, Jason Kessler, and Richard Spencer. The court found that the group was responsible for conspiring to organize the Unite the Right rally. For now, at the age of 26, James remains incarcerated at the maximum-security United States Penitentiary – Allenwood in Pennsylvania, where he will likely spend the rest of his natural life.

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