(JTA) — The white supremacist who rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters at a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, has asked a judge for mercy.
Attorneys for James Alex Fields Jr., 22, blamed his behavior in part on the “trauma” he suffered by growing up knowing that his Jewish grandfather had murdered his grandmother before committing suicide, The Associated Press reported.
Fields’ attorneys made the claim in a sentencing memo submitted to the United States District Court in Richmond, Virginia on Friday. Fields is scheduled to be sentenced on June 28 after pleading guilty in March to 29 federal hate crime charges and admitting that he intentionally drove his speeding car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters at the rally on Aug. 12, 2017, killing Heyer and injuring dozens.
Under the plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty against Fields. He could face life in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
In addition to the trauma caused by Fields’ Jewish grandfather, his attorneys noted his history of mental illness and difficult upbringing by a paraplegic single mother.
Prosecutors in their sentencing memo noted years of documented racist and anti-Semitic behavior by Fields, which they said included keeping a picture of Adolf Hitler on his bedside table. They also report that he has shown no remorse for his actions and that a life sentence would deter others from similar actions.
A jury in Fields’ state trial in December 2018 found him guilty of first-degree murder and nine lesser counts. The jury in the state conviction recommended life in prison plus 419 years. Sentencing on the state charges is scheduled for next month.