US neo-Nazi sympathizer charged with hate crimes for Charlottesville rampage

The Dodge Charger used by James Fields to ram a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on 12 August 2017, in which 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed

Washington (AFP) – An American neo-Nazi sympathizer who killed a protester when he rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racism demonstrators in Charlottesville last year was charged Wednesday with federal hate crimes, prosecutors said.  

A federal grand jury in Virginia charged James Fields, 21, with hate crimes, in addition to a slew of other charges he has already been indicted on, including causing the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring others who had joined the protest against the Unite the Right rally in the Virginian city last August.

Fields was arrested shortly after the violent clashes that shocked the country, and has already been charged with murder by the state of Virginia. His trial is expected to start later this year.

“Today’s indictment should send a clear message to every would-be criminal in America that we aggressively prosecute violent crimes of hate that threaten the core principles of our nation,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announcing the federal charges.

Hate crimes are those deemed to be targeted at people for reason of their race, religion, sexual orientation or even handicap.

President Donald Trump stirred anger in the immediate aftermath of the deadly clashes between neo-Nazi demonstrators and anti-fascist protesters, when he appeared initially reluctant to condemn the extreme right-wingers, many of whom have rallied behind him since his election.