James Alex Fields Jr original second-degree murder charge was amended on Thursday and upgraded to first-degree murder
Prosecutors filed to amend Fields’ second-degree murder charge on Thursday before his preliminary hearing
Denise Lunsford, Fields’ attorney did not present any evidence or make any arguments at the preliminary hearing
In August, Fields was arrested for driving his vehicle into a crowd of people at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville
On Thursday, an Ohio man said to be responsible for driving a car into a group of people who were counter-protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in August has had his charges upgraded to first-degree murder.
James Alex Fields Jr appeared in court for his preliminary hearing after prosecutors filed a motion on early Thursday to amend his original charge of second-degree murder in regards to the death of 24-year-old Heather Heyer.
The attack occurred shortly after a white nationalist rally spiraled out of control due to confrontations and fights broke out between those attending the rally and counter-protesters. The rally was held in Charlottesville after plans were announced to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Fields’ attorney Denise Lunsford did not present any evidence or make any arguments at Thursday’s hearing. However, she did cross-examine Charlottesville Police Detective Steven Young which prosecutors called as a witness. Now the burden will be on prosecutors to prove their case of first-degree murder in front of a Grand Jury to decide if Fields will be indicted.
Lunsford did ask Young if a search of Fields’ computer and his phone showed any evidence of a connection to the known hate group Vanguard America. Young responded no. A picture of Fields before the attack showed him carrying a shield with the Vanguard America emblem on it.
Heart Attack Conspiracy
In October, a conspiracy was launched by the far-right claiming Heyer died of a heart attack and was never struck by Fields’ vehicle. The conspiracy claims that media, politicians and city and state law enforcement colluded to place murder charges against Fields to demonize the white nationalist movement. The claim is that Heyer was out of shape and died of a heart attack due to the heat.
The Central District Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia has stated that Heyer’s cause of death was definitively not a heart attack. Heyer’s cause of death was determined to be “blunt force trauma to the torso” and ruled a homicide.
The conspiracy appears to have originated from two popular white nationalist media outlets. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi propaganda outlet that has been bouncing between different Web hosts since being booted from Go Daddy. Heyer’s death was publicly mocked by The Daily Storm editor Andrew Anglin.
The second outlet to fuel the conspiracy was Occidental Dissent, ran by self-proclaimed Southern Nationalist Brad Griffin, who is also known to use the name, Hunter Wallace.
Some have claimed they want to see Heyer’s medical report first-hand, which cannot be released without a subpoena or a request from Heyer’s family. Others claim the government is lying about the cause of Heyer’s death to publicly tarnish Fields’ name.
Popular alt-right theories also include Fields was acting in self-defense when he rammed his vehicle into a group of counter-protesters, and that African-Americans working for the state may have doctored Heyer’s results to push blame against the white nationalists behind the rally.