Charlottesville car attack suspect now charged with first-degree murder

The suspect and self-identified neo-Nazi involved with the death of Heather Heyer when he drove a vehicle into a crowd in Charlottesville, Va., was charged with first-degree murder on Thursday.

James Alex Fields Jr. had previously been charged with second-degree murder, but upon entering the courtroom Thursday for a preliminary hearing, prosecutor Joe Platania said his primary charge had been altered to first-degree murder, according to the Washington Post. Second-degree murder is only punishable by 5 to 40 years in prison; first-degree murder is punishable by 20 years to a lifetime prison sentence.

Fields also faces charges of eight counts of “aggravated malicious wounding.” This means that of the 35 people hurt, at least eight encountered “permanent and significant physical impairment,” according to Virginia law.

The violence from Charlottesville occurred in August as white supremacists clashed with counter-protesters at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Those who organized the rally claimed they were protesting the removal of a Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee statue. Heyer was a counter-protester.

Footage of the incident was shown during the hearing. One clip showed Fields’ vehicle reversing rapidly before charging into the crowd. Authorities said this showed the crash was intentional, which led to the second-degree murder charge.

Fields has been behind bars the past four months since the fatal incident occurred.

President Trump faced backlash for his initial comments on the incident when he said “both sides” shared blame for the violence.

This post originally appeared on Washington Examiner

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