CHARLOTTESVILLE — The man accused of killing one person and injuring 19 in a car attack after Saturday’s rally in Charlottesville was ordered held without bail by a judge Monday.
James A. Fields, 20, appeared via video conference from jail. He is accused of killing Heather Heyer, 32, when the 2010 Dodge Challenger he allegedly was driving plowed into a group of anti-racist counterprotesters at Fourth and Water streets following the intense and violent white nationalist rally protesting the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park.
Of the people injured in the car attack, 10 have been released and nine are in good condition, University of Virginia Health System spokeswoman Angela Taylor said Monday.
Twenty people were taken to U.Va. Medical Center after the car ran into the crowd. Heyer died, and five were initially in critical condition.
The hospital has said it treated additional patients related to Saturday’s events beyond those 20 but that it cannot give an exact number.
Fields, according to records from the Florence Police Department in Kentucky, was previously accused of beating his mother and threatening her with a knife in 2011. The mother, Samantha Bloom, who is disabled and uses a wheelchair, told police he stood behind her wielding a 12-inch knife.
Bloom said that in another incident in 2010, Fields smacked her in the head and locked her in the bathroom after she told him to stop playing video games. Bloom told officers Fields was on medication to control his temper.
In court Monday, Charlottesville General District Judge Robert H. Downer Jr. told Fields that the public defender’s office would typically represent him, but that a relative of an employee was injured in the crash and the office had informed him that it could not take him as a client.
Instead, he appointed Charles Weber from a list of possible court-appointed attorneys. Downer described Weber as “very experienced” and set an Aug. 25 hearing to reconsider bond once Fields has had an opportunity to consult with Weber.
Weber is a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the city regarding the removal of Confederate statues. In 2013, Weber ran for the Charlottesville City Council as a Republican.
Fields appeared calm throughout the hearing. Hair neatly parted and wearing a jail jumpsuit with thick, black stripes, he stared blankly at the camera, periodically looking down and sniffling. He answered most of Downer’s questions by saying “yes, sir” or “no, sir.”
He told the judge he could not afford an attorney. He said he earned $650 every two weeks and identified his employers as Securitas and Ohio Omni.
The small, brick-walled courtroom just blocks from the scene of the violence that took place on Saturday was filled almost entirely with reporters.
Fields appeared on the roughly 2-by-2-foot screen without warning during a recess at 9:55 a.m. A hush came over the courtroom as reporters watched his eyes dart around the small room he appeared to be sitting in.
At 10:05, the court was called into session and Downer addressed the prisoner.
“Mr. Fields?” he said.
“Yes, sir,” Fields responded.
Downer explained the severity of the charges.
“You are charged with a number of felonies, including murder and malicious wounding,” he said. “So you should have a lawyer representing you. Can you afford to hire one?”
“No, sir,” Fields said.
Downer then placed Fields under oath. When Fields began to speak the oath back — “I solemnly swear ...” — Downer interrupted him, telling him he didn’t have to repeat the words.
Downer then explained why the public defender’s office could not represent him and set the hearing, which he said could be moved at Downer and Weber’s request.
“Do you understand all those things?” Downer said.
“Yes, sir,” Fields said.
Outside the courthouse Monday, two men shouted that the melee over the weekend was not the fault of the white supremacists who massed in the city to protest the removal of the Lee statue. Instead, they blamed it on the City Council, for attempting to remove the statue.
The two men were swarmed by national and local media and eventually shouted down by several Charlottesville residents.
Downer and the commonwealth’s attorney office described the Aug. 25 hearing as a “control date.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman said in a statement that “a control date is one of which a more informed decision can be made concerning the scheduling of a preliminary hearing. The timing of a preliminary hearing may be affected by many factors, including the availability of witnesses and the results of any forensic testing.”
Addressing the “future course of the case,” the office said city police will complete a “full and fair investigation” and that final decisions regarding the charges will not be made until it’s complete.
“Before then, we will not engage in public discussion or speculation about new or additional charges,” Chapman said. “Our pretrial comments are limited to court proceedings.”
According to reports, Fields was fascinated with Nazism and idolized Adolf Hitler. A former high school teacher, Derek Weimer, said Fields was singled out in ninth grade by officials at his Union, Ky., school for his “deeply held, radical” beliefs on race.
Keegan McGrath, 18, who said he was roommates with Fields on a class trip to Europe in 2015, said Fields referred to Germany as “the Fatherland.”
Weimer described Fields as an “average” student, but with a keen interest in military history, Hitler and Nazi Germany.
“Once you talked to James for a while, you would start to see that sympathy toward Nazism, that idolization of Hitler, that belief in white supremacy,” Weimer said. “It would start to creep out.”
Fields enlisted in the Army and reported for basic military training camp in August 2015, Army Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson said. The spokeswoman added that Fields was released from active duty four months later “due to a failure to meet training standards.”