A Charlottesville defense attorney assigned to represent the man accused of murder in the death of a Greene County woman by ramming his car into a crowd protesting Saturday’s white nationalist rally is a former Republican city council candidate and a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the city regarding the removal of Confederate statues.
James Alex Fields Jr., 20, a security guard from Maumee, Ohio, is being held in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail without bond until he can meet with an attorney.
Fields is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer, 32, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit-and-run in an accident resulting in death.
Charlottesville District Court Judge Robert H. Downer, Jr., appointed Charles L. “Buddy” Weber to represent Fields, who said he made about $1,300 a month as a security guard and could not afford an attorney.
“You have no ties to the community, so at this time you will not have bond until you have an attorney and they can come to this court regarding a bond,” Downer told Fields, who appeared in a video feed from jail.
Downer indicated that Weber was unaware of the appointment.
“I do not know if Mr. Weber has a conflict or if he is willing to represent you.”
Will Lyster, a friend of Weber, said the attorney is on a hiking trip and does not have cellphone service. He is expected to return next week.
Downer said that a member of the Charlottesville Public Defender’s office has a conflict of interest with Fields regarding the incident and that the office could not represent Fields. He then appointed Weber, a local defense attorney who is on a list of local public defenders, to represent Fields.
Downer set the next bond hearing for Fields for 11 a.m. Aug. 25.
Weber, a former chairman of the city Republican Party, is one of 13 plaintiffs who have sued the Charlottesville City Council for its decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from the park that once bore the Confederate general’s name. The park has since been renamed Emancipation Park.
The park was the site of Saturday’s Unite the Right rally, which brought several white supremacist and white nationalist groups to the park, as well as counter-protesters. The rally erupted in violence between the groups before it could start, however. Police declared an unlawful assembly and cleared the park after hundreds of people beat each other with sticks and fists, sprayed each other with pepper spray and hurled makeshift missiles.
After the rally, a car plowed into a crowd of about 100 counter-protesters marching down Water Street at the intersection with Fourth Street Southeast and slammed into other cars that had stopped for the protesters. Heyer was killed in the crash, and 19 others were injured. Of the 10 patients still at the University of Virginia Medical Center, nine are listed as in good condition and one has been discharged.
The car backed up on Fourth Street and sped away. Fields was later arrested.
As Fields’ Monday hearing was ending, Matthew Heimbach, leader of the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party, began shouting accusations that counter-protesters caused Saturday’s violence. He was quickly surrounded by television crews and news reporters who were milling about the courthouse, awaiting Downer’s ruling.
Bystanders then joined the throng, drowning the man’s words by chanting “Nazi go home” until police whisked him safely away from the growing crowd.
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