Charlottesville suspect sent mother Hitler picture days before rally, prosecutors say
As James Fields sat in jail, accused of killing a counterprotester at a white nationalist rally, he told his mom that the victim’s mother was an “anti-white communist.”
Audio from that jailhouse phone call was just one of several new pieces of evidence presented at Fields’ murder trial Tuesday.
Jurors also saw a text message from Fields that included a picture of Adolf Hitler, and heard police audio of Fields sobbing after he learned someone was killed.
Fields is charged with first-degree murder for the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer at last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
He’s accused of plowing his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heyer and injuring more than a dozen others in August 2017.
In a December 2017 phone call from jail, Fields railed against Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, calling her an “anti-white communist.”
“She was the enemy,” Fields told his mother on the phone.
When his mom reminded him that the woman had “lost her daughter,” Fields responded, “that doesn’t f**king matter. She is, she is the enemy, mother.”
Fields said he thought counterprotesters were ‘terrorists’
In a jailhouse phone call in March, Fields told his mother that he was merely defending himself from “a violent mob of terrorists” the day of the killing.
He also told her that some counterprotesters that day were waving the ISIS flag — a claim that no one else appears to have made.
Fields’ mother replied, in part, “I don’t think the Nazi side is any better.”
The defense has said Fields acted not with criminal intent, but out of fear of the counterprotesters.
But some people who knew Fields at his Ohio high school said he had extreme views and a fascination with Nazism.
Jurors see the Hitler text
On Tuesday, Judge Richard Moore allowed jurors to see a text exchange between Fields and his mother prior to the white nationalist rally.
“I got the weekend off, so I’ll be able to go to the rally,” Fields texted his mother on August 8, 2017, four days before “Unite the Right.”
On August 10, his mother responded: “Be careful.”
On August 11, the day before the rally, Fields replied: “We’re not the one (sic) who need to be careful.”
That message was followed by an image of Hitler.
Fields’ defense team had argued against letter the Hitler text be shown to the jury, saying it would create the “possibility for prejudice.”
But the judge said the message speaks to Fields’ frame of mind before the rally.
Fields sobbed after learning someone was killed
Jurors also saw video of Fields talking to a Charlottesville police officer after he was arrested.
“I’m so sorry,” Fields told Detective Steven Young. “I didn’t want to hurt people. But I thought they were attacking me.”
An hour later, during his interrogation at the police department, Fields was told many people were injured and one person was killed.
Fields started sobbing loudly and hyperventilated for a few minutes. Afterward, he invoked his right to remain silent.
The prosecution rested its case on Tuesday.
Defense attorneys called four witnesses, all law enforcement members.
Two officers testified Fields was calm, apologetic and polite when he was arrested and being transported to jail. A search of Fields’ car turned up only a mortgage or rent receipt, Charlottesville police detective Jeremy Carper testified. No weapons were found in the car, he said.
Charlottesville police officer Tammy Shiflett testified to being overwhelmed and underprepared for the size and volatility of the crowds early in the day before Heyer was killed.
Testimony resumes on Wednesday.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Fields could be sentenced to life in prison. He also faces eight other counts related to eight people injured in the crash, as well as one count of failing to stop at an accident involving a death.