James Fields Jr., who recently pleaded guilty to driving his car into a group of protestors at the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally on August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been sentence to life in prison by a federal judge on federal hate crimes charges, the Associated Press reports.
At the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Fields rammed his car into a group of counter-protestors who were present to show opposition to the event. His attack resulted in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer and the injuries of several others.
At a press conference following the sentencing U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen called the ruling "an acceptable and appropriate outcome in this case."
"Hatred and bigotry have no place in our nation. Violent actions inspired by such warped thinking are a disgrace to our people and our values, and the Department of Justice will not tolerate such depraved acts," read a prepared statement from U.S. Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband following the sentencing. "Prosecuting hate crimes and acts of domestic terrorism continues to be a top priority for the Department of Justice. Anyone who commits a crime motivated by hatred for the race, color, religion, national origin or other protected trait of any person should be on notice: the United States government will use its enormous power to bring perpetrators to justice, and we will continue to do so for as long as it takes to rid our nation of these vile and monstrous crimes."
Prior to the deadly attack, Fields "used social media accounts to express and promote white supremacist views; to express support for the social and racial policies of Adolf Hitler and Nazi-era Germany, including the Holocaust; and to espouse violence against African Americans, Jewish people, and members of other racial, ethnic, and religious groups he perceived to be non-white," the Justice Department explained in a press release.
Fields pleaded guilty to 29 federal hate crimes charges back in March, including one related to Heyer's death. The judge handed down his sentence on Friday. Fields only spoke to answer "yes sir" when the judge asked if he pleaded guilty. As part of the plea deal at the time, prosecutors dropped their request for the death penalty.
"I apologize for the hurt and loss I've caused," Fields told the court during his first public apology for his actions. He later added, "Every day I think about how things could have gone differently and how I regret my actions. I'm sorry."
The sentence runs contrary to a request by Fields' lawyers last week to give the attacker a sentence less than life in prison.
"No amount of punishment imposed on James can repair the damage he caused to dozens of innocent people," Fields' lawyers wrote in a sentencing memo last week. "But this Court should find that retribution has limits."
Fields will face sentencing next month on separate state murder charges.