An Ohio man accused of ramming his car into a crowd of protesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia will remain in jail — at least until he has an attorney. Judge Robert Downer declined to set bond at a hearing Monday for James Alex Fields Jr., who faces second-degree murder and other charges, until he has legal representation.
The judge says the public defenders' office informed him it could not represent Fields because a relative of someone in the office was injured in Saturday's protest. Downer said Charles Weber, a local attorney, will be appointed to represent the 20-year-old Fields. The next scheduled court hearing is Aug. 25, though Fields' attorney could request a bond hearing before then.
Fields was not physically present in the courtroom but appeared via a video monitor. He was seated and wearing a black and white striped uniform. He answered questions from the judge with simple responses of "Yes, sir" when asked if he understood the judge.
He told the judge, "No, sir" when asked if he had ties to the community of Charlottesville.
Fields is charged in the death of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal. She died when Fields allegedly slammed his car amid a crowd of people protesting the white nationalist rally Saturday.
The rally was held by white supremacists and others who opposed Charlottesville's plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a local park. The event quickly descended into chaos.
Violence erupted as neo-Nazis, skinheads, Ku Klux Klan members, and other white supremacist groups arrived for the rally. Counter-protesters were also present, and the two sides clashed, with people throwing punches, hurling water bottles, and unleashing chemical sprays. Officials have not provided a crowd estimate, but it appeared to number well over 1,000.
As the turmoil grew, local authorities declared it an unlawful assembly and forced the crowd to disperse. About two hours later, pockets of counter-protesters who had been marching through town converged on a downtown street. Hundreds were streaming along, cheering, and waving flags. That's when a car allegedly driven by Fields plowed into the crowd, hurling people into the air. Heyer was killed and 19 others were injured.
Fields was arrested by the authorities and has been in custody since Saturday. A high school teacher said the 20-year-old was fascinated with Nazism, idolized Adolf Hitler, and had been singled out by school officials in the 9th grade for his "deeply held, radical" convictions on race.
President Trump criticized the violence in a tweet Saturday, followed by a news conference and a call for "a swift restoration of law and order."
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides," he said.
The "on many sides" ending of his statement drew the ire of his critics, who said he failed to specifically denounce white supremacy and equated those who came to protest racism with the white nationalists.
Trump "needs to come out stronger" against the actions of white supremacists, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe told reporters at the First Baptist Church in Charlottesville on Sunday. "They are Nazis and they are here to hurt American citizens, and he needs to call them out for what they are, no question."
This story has been updated.