Trio sentenced in deadly crash during Charlottesville rally

(CNN) — It all started at a 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when James Alex Fields Jr. ran his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

Shortly afterward, Fields and a number of his co-conspirators were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges related to causing death and injury in the attack.

On Tuesday, a jury in Richmond awarded a woman $26 million in damages, suing her on behalf of her son, who was seriously injured when he was run over by a Dodge Challenger driven by one of the defendants.

In an unrelated civil suit, Fields was found liable and ordered to pay his victims $1.14 million.

Fields could not be located Wednesday and his attorneys declined to comment on the decision by the jury in Richmond.

Controversy rages

The jury was able to make its decision after hearing more than 50 witnesses, and considering more than 50 pieces of evidence in a one-week trial.

Some aspects of the case do not seem related, at least on first glance. The Dodge Challenger was a dark blue vehicle, whereas a 2012 Honda Accord, with a darker blue paint job, was the car of choice for the Dodge Challenger driver who ran Heyer over.

That driver, who was not named in the case, was tried separately. He testified that a rear taillight snapped and he knew he hit someone when he felt the car reverse again.

But the two cases have their roots in circumstances that have appeared beyond politics and are driven by personal, economic and legal considerations.

How it happened

The day of the incident, at approximately 9:00 p.m., the plaintiffs claim that the first defendant, Thomas Edward Dunn, 19, confronted and then assaulted a woman near another car with wheels missing. Then he stopped to confront and then assaulted another woman at a street corner, the lawsuit states.

Dunn was one of two of the defendants that the jury found partially liable, including the Fusion’s owner, Volkswagen AG. A third defendant, Aaron Paul Del Toro, 21, also was partially responsible.

In his closing argument, Daniel Allen, the plaintiff’s attorney, focused much of his attention on the defendant that the jury did not find partially liable: James Alex Fields Jr.

Allen depicted the Dodge Challenger as a “weapon” that was driven deliberately into a crowd of people, including elderly people, that was supportive of a group called Vanguard America, which describes itself as a “nationalist” group.

“Who was it out there protecting the car?” Allen asked rhetorically. “Did he? No.”

Fields was among the riders in the Dodge Challenger, Allen said.

But prosecutors alleged in their closing arguments that Fields paid a heavy price for being reckless with his life. During his six months at Western Carolina University, from which he graduated in 2015, Fields spent a lot of time drinking, prosecutors say. He also had an abusive relationship and suffered from a drug addiction at one point.

After the jury came back with its verdict, the family of Heather Heyer was overwhelmed with emotion.

“I know that justice was done, but I’m definitely not here for revenge,” said Linda Rodgers, Heyer’s mother. “I don’t believe that justice was served last night because we saw white supremacy right up close.”


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