Neo-Nazi faces who murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville car attack faces sentencing

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Susan Bro reflects on the death of her daughter who was hit by a car during a peaceful anti-racist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, nearly one year ago. USA TODAY

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — James Fields Jr., a white supremacist who rammed his car into counter-protesters of a “Unite the Right” rally in 2017, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others, is asking for mercy.

The self-avowed neo-Nazi, who occasionally adorned his text messages with photos of Adolf Hitler, will appear Friday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Charlottesville where he is scheduled to face sentencing for a guilty plea he made at the end of March to 29 hate crimes.

Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, was among those at the courthouse Friday for the sentencing.

“I’ve tried to just leave him in the hands of justice,” she told USA TODAY. “I have been trying to move forward with making her death count for something.”

Bro said she  hopes that the judge will give Fields multiple life sentences. But she’s been trying not to dwell on it, hoping instead to focus on other projects, such as the Heather Heyer Foundation. The non-profit provides scholarships for young people interested in social change.

As a part of a deal with federal prosecutors, the death penalty was taken off the table. The government will argue that Fields, 22, deserves life in prison. His lawyers, according to court documents, are planning to argue for a lighter sentence.

In December, Fields was convicted of murder in state court; those charges are separate from the federal charges he is being sentenced for on Friday.  A sentencing hearing on the state charges is set for July 15. A jury has recommended a sentence of life, plus 419 years.

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Fields plowed his car into the crowd of peaceful counter-protesters on Aug. 12, 2017, killing Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal and activist, and injuring dozens of others.

Hundreds of counterprotesters showed up to demonstrate against an assortment of alt-right and far-right protesters, who had descended upon the Virginia college town to rally against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Fields, of Maumee, Ohio, was among the white nationalists in attendance.

President Donald Trump blamed the violence at the rally on “both sides,” sparking further controversy and stirring racial tensions.

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