In August of 2017, white nationalists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. The march was notable for a number of reasons including Donald Trump declaring some of the protesters to be “very fine people.” The were a number of violent moments including 20 year-old James Field driving his car through a crowd of counter protesters.
Field’s violent car attack resulted in injuries to 28 people and the death of 31 year-old Heather Heyer. The attacker has already pleaded guilty to 29 federal charges. In a sentencing memo from his lawyers, the admitted killer asked the court for leniency.
The memo from the lawyers read, “No amount of punishment imposed on James can repair the damage he caused to dozens of innocent people. But this Court should find that retribution has limits.”
Field’s attorneys continued by saying that a sentence that gives their clients less than a life sentence would be, “an act of mercy.” They also argued that the killer had a difficult upbringing and has struggled with mental illness.
Prosecutors pushed back hard against the defense attorney’s claims. They noted that Fields had shared an Instagram post of a car driving through a crowd just 3 months prior to the incident. Prosecutor Nina-Alice Antony wrote, “What we have is a man who had a decision, and he decides to turn his Instagram post into reality.”
The prosecutors also felt that any mental illness claims should not excuse Field’s actions. They wrote, “Any mental health concerns raised by the defendant do not overcome the defendant’s demonstrated lack of remorse and his prior history of substantial racial animus.”