Virginia

Jurors Must Deliberate Intent of Man Who Drove Into Charlottesville Counterprotesters

No one disputes an Ohio man drove his car into the counterprotesters during a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 12, 2017, but prosecutors and defense attorneys disagree on his intent.

James Alex Fields Jr. is accused of first-degree murder and other charges.

In her closing argument Thursday, defense attorney Denise Lunsford said Fields had urine thrown on him and had witnessed violent clashes between the two sides earlier in the day. She said when he spotted a large crowd of counterprotesters around two other cars, he thought he would be attacked.

Prosecutors told the jury that no one was near Fields' car when he slowly backed up, then sped into the crowd, tossing bodies into the air.

Prosecutors say Fields traveled from his home in Maumee, Ohio, to support white nationalists at the rally. During closing arguments, prosecutor Nina-Alice Anthony said Fields was angry at the counterprotesters and deliberately aimed his car at them, then sped into the crowd, knowing he would hurt or kill someone.

"He gets toward that group and he goes for them," she said.

She told the jury Fields had images of hatred and violence in his mind when he drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.

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A final defense witness testified Thursday Fields appeared calm and "maybe a little bit scared" after police declared an "unlawful assembly" and forced the crowds to disperse after violent clashes between white nationalists and counterprotesters.

Prosecutors called a Charlottesville police detective as a rebuttal witness in an attempt to cast doubt on the testimony of a member of a left-wing defense group who said he scared away a man driving a "gray muscle car" repeatedly circling a park where counterprotesters had gathered.

Dwayne Dixon, a teaching assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said he's also a member of Redneck Revolt and was armed with an AR-15 and providing security for counterprotesters.

Dixon said he saw a gray "muscle car" drive by several times. He said he yelled "Get the (expletive) out of here" at the car while wearing his gun slung over his shoulder. He testified that he could not see the driver because the car had tinted windows.

Dixon said he believes that was about 30 minutes to an hour before Fields slammed into the group with his car.

The detective, however, said geolocation data from Fields' phone indicates his car was in the vicinity of the park only once, about four minutes before Fields struck counterprotesters in a different location.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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