CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WWBT/AP) - The man convicted of federal hate crimes for plowing his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters at a 2017 white nationalist rally in Virginia was sentenced to life in prison on hate crime charges.
James Alex Fields Jr. was sentenced Friday in the attack that killed one person and injured more than two dozen others. He apologized before the judge handed down his life without parole sentence.
The judge called Fields a “profoundly disturbed young man with a history of anger issues.”
Fields, of Maumee, Ohio, pleaded guilty to 29 federal charges stemming from the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017.
The rally drew hundreds of white nationalists to Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Fields admitted to deliberately driving his car into counterprotesters who showed up to demonstrate against the white nationalists.
The case stirred racial tensions around the country.
On Friday, the Associated Press reports that prosecutors told a judge that Fields was “like a kid at Disney World” during his high school trip to a German concentration camp.
FBI Special Agent Wade Douthit read grand jury testimony from a high school classmate of Fields, who said Fields appeared happy when touring the Dachau camp and remarked, “This is where the magic happened.”
Under a plea agreement, prosecutors had agreed not to seek the death penalty. The charges call for life in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
Heather Heyer was killed and dozens more were injured.
Heyer’s mother says she wants James Alex Fields Jr. to spend the rest of his life in prison but hopes he also can get the help he needs.
Speaking during Fields' sentencing hearing Friday, Susan Bro said she hopes Fields "can heal someday and help others heal."
Her testimony was one of more than a dozen statements given by survivors and witnesses to the 2017 attack.
Fields appeared stoic, stared straight ahead and didn't look at any of the victims.
Rosia Parker said she was standing feet away from Bro's daughter Heather Heyer when Heyer was struck. Looking directly at Fields, she remarked that he "could have done anything else but what you did."
“So, yeah, you deserve everything that you get.”
Many other victims shared their experiences with PTSD, strained relationships and anxiety following the incident.
Last week, Lawyers said in a sentencing memo submitted in court documents that Fields should not spend his entire life in prison because of his age, a traumatic childhood and a history of mental illness.
Fields will be back in court next month to be sentenced on state charges, including murder.
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