Ohio man pleads not guilty to hate crimes in attack on protesters
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — An Ohio man pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges today in a deadly car attack on a crowd of protesters opposing a white nationalist rally in Virginia.
James Alex Fields Jr. entered the plea during his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville after being charged last week with 30 federal crimes in the Aug. 12 violence that killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injured dozens more. He also is charged under Virginia law with murder and other crimes.
Fields, of Maumee, Ohio, near Toledo, wore a gray-striped jumpsuit and sat quietly, giving brief answers to the judge's questions. He entered the courtroom wearing handcuffs and shackles. The cuffs were removed when he came in, then re-fastened when he left. His attorneys made no request for bail.
He told U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Hoppe he is being treated for bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and ADHD, and is taking medication. But also said the drugs do not impair his ability to understand the charges against him.
Hoppe said Fields is qualified to be represented by a federal public defender, and appointed legal counsel for him.
The 21-year-old defendant said he has a high-school education and has worked as a security guard.
Some survivors of the attack were among the dozens of people in the courtroom. Also present was Heyer's mother, Susan Bro.
Talking with news reporters outside the courthouse, Bro said she expected a not-guilty plea at this stage of the case, but added she still "felt a little punched in the gut."
She also said she was a little surprised that Fields' voice sounded "bold."
"I just somehow expected him to sound more timid and abashed, but he didn't sound like it at all," Bro said.