Driver accused of running over protesters at Charlottesville rally charged with federal hate crime

Police say 20-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr. of Ohio is accused of ramming his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.

The driver accused of driving into protesters at a Charlottesville rally charged with federal hate crimes.

James Alex Fields Jr. was charged with the federal hate crime on Wednesday. He's accused of plowing his car into a crowd at an anti-white nationalist rally, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

The Department of Justice announced that an indictment returned Wednesday charges 21-year-old James Alex Fields of Ohio with 30 crimes, including one count of a hate crime resulting in the death of Heather Heyer, and 28 other hate crimes involving an attempt to kill other people who were injured. 

Fields already faces state charges of first-degree murder and other crimes. 

"Last summer's violence in Charlottesville cut short a promising young life and shocked the nation," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "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."

Authorities have said that Fields, described by a former teacher as having a keen interest in Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler, drove his speeding car into a group of people demonstrating against the "Unite the Right" rally that drew hundreds of white nationalists to the college town, where officials planned to remove a Confederate monument. 

Fields was photographed hours before the attack with a shield bearing the emblem of one of the hate groups taking part in the rally. He has been in custody since then.

Charlottesville was the site of a white pride rally on August 12, 2017. It descended into violence after neo-Nazis, skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists gathered to "take America back" and oppose plans to remove a Confederate statue in the Virginia college town.

Hundreds of people were in the city as well to protest the rally and the two groups clashed in street brawls, with hundreds of people throwing punches, hurling water bottles and beating each other with sticks and shields.

Eventually, the car rammed into the crowd, killing Heyer. 

President Donald Trump condemned what he called an "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides," a statement that Democrats and some of the president's fellow Republicans saw as equivocating about who was to blame. The White House later added that the condemnation "includes white Supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups." 

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

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