Charlottesville Attacker's Own Words Were Used Against Him

Prosecutors used jailhouse recordings, aerial footage and more to convince the judge to give James Fields a life sentence

Federal prosecutors used jailhouse recordings, aerial footage and more to convince the judge to give an avowed white supremacist a life sentence. 

James Fields Jr., 22, received two life sentences and 419 years for plowing his car into a crowd of people protesting the weekend rally of white nationalists and white supremacists demonstrating against a plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. His actions killed Heather Heyer, 32, and injured more than two dozen others.

To convince a judge to give Fields a life sentence, prosecutors presented a variety of evidence, including recordings, and used Fields' own words against him. 

Fields was locked up for about two weeks when he began to talk about the defense he might use at trial. In a recorded jailhouse call with his mom, Fields mentioned an insanity defense and how he'd need to convince his doctor he didn't intend to kill the day he plowed into the crowd of counterdemonstrators. 

"Yeah, I hope I can get that insanity thing. The second definition of it is an irresistible impulse," Fields said in the recording. 

Fields faced a murder charge for killing Heyer. Her mother, Susan Bro, took a public stance against white supremacists, and her words were broadcast nationally.

When Fields spoke to his mother again in December, he went on a rant attacking Bro. 

"Her mother is going around, doing speeches and s---, slandering me. Bunch of commies," he said in a recording.

When his mother reminded him that Bro had lost her daughter, Fields persisted. 

"She is a communist. An anti-white, liberal. It's not up for questioning — she is. She's the enemy," he said.

Prosecutors also showed a judge new videos of the attack, including a live Periscope feed that captured the peaceful chants of counterdemonstrators and the chaos that followed when Fields plowed into them.

There was also chopper footage from above as Virginia State Police witnessed Fields' rampage.

One of the voices heard in the recording was that of Trooper Berke Bates. He kept Fields' car in their camera view to make sure he didn't get away. 

Bates tracked Fields until he finally pulled over. Three hours later, with Bates and another trooper, Lt. Jay Cullen, on board, the chopper began to spin and crashed to the ground, killing both men.

Fields' attorneys had argued that he acted in self-defense and said he had a history of mental illness.

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