A Virginia judge on Monday declined to set bail for James Alex Fields Jr., the 20-year-old Ohio man accused of second-degree murder and other charges after authorities said he plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters near the scene of a white supremacist rally that erupted into violence.
That means Fields, whom news reports have described as fascinated by Nazism, will remain jailed at least until his court-appointed attorney requests bail.
The local public defenders’ office informed the court it could not represent him because of a potential conflict of interest — someone in the office has a relative who was involved in Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville.
Fields said he makes $650 a month and could not afford a lawyer. The attorney appointed to represent him, Charles L. Weber Jr., could seek bond before the next scheduled hearing, Aug. 25.
Fields, clad in a black-and-white striped jail uniform, appeared via video link for Monday’shearing. He briefly responded to questions from Judge Robert Downer, replying “No, sir,” when asked if he had any ties to the Charlottesville community.
Saturday’s car rampage killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer, a Charlottesville paralegal who was among the crowd of counter-protesters responding to the rally by white nationalists and others. Those groups oppose a plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville park.
Fields was taken into custody soon after the attack.
Photos circulating on social media appeared to show Fields posing with members of Vanguard America, a white nationalist group, the day of the main rally. Fields held a black-and-white shield with the organization’s insignia. The group said Fields was not a member and that the shields were distributed widely.
The hearing came soon after U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions said the attack met the legal standard for an act of domestic terrorism. Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the attorney general called the car rampage, which injured 19 other people, an “unequivocally and unacceptable evil attack.”
Sessions, who was to meet later Monday with President Trump, also defended the president against widespread criticism that he had not specifically condemned white supremacists in connection with Saturday’s events, but instead blamed “many sides” for inciting the violence. Critics have called on the president to explicitly denounce the right-wing hate groups behind Saturday’s march.
“He said that yesterday, his spokesman did,” the attorney general said in the ABC interview. He was referring to a White House statement, issued Sunday without a spokesperson’s name attached to it, that maintained Trump’s previous comments had implicitly included condemnation of white supremacists and allied groups.
Other senior Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence, on a trip to Latin America, have denounced by name various hate movements including white nationalists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.
Trump, returning to the White House on Monday from his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., did not respond to a volley of shouted questions from reporters about whether he condemns white nationalists.
Times staff writer Cloud reported from Charlottesville and King from Washington.
9:15 a.m.: This article has been updated with attorney appointed to represent Fields, Trump returning to White House, other details.
8:40 a.m.: This article has been updated throughout with staff reporting additional details and comments from Atty Gen. Jeff Sessions.
This article was originally published at 7:45 a.m.
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