Jury recommends life in prison plus 419 years for Charlottesville driver James Alex Fields

The judge accepted their recommendations, but will not formally sentence Fields until March for killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.

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By Elisha Fieldstadt and Associated Press

A jury on Tuesday recommended life in prison plus 419 years for James Alex Fields Jr., convicted of killing Heather Heyer when he plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters last year at a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

After deliberating for about four hours over two days, the jury reached a sentencing recommendation of life in prison, 70 years a piece for five malicious wounding charges, 20 for each of three malicious wounding charges, and nine years on one charge of leaving the scene of an accident. They also recommended $480,000 in fines.

The judge accepted their recommendations, but will not formally sentence Fields until March, according to NBC affiliate WVIR.

James Alex Fields Jr. attends the "Unite the Right" rally in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12, 2017.Eze Amos / Reuters file

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The jury made their decision after listening to statements from Heyer's mother and multiple people who were injured.

Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, told reporters that she trusted the system of justice and the jury in the matter, and that "I was not going to be consumed by hate for this young man, but I was leaving him to the hands of justice." She thanked the jury, and she also thanked Field’s defense team for “trying to help the young man.”

"I don’t hate him," Bro said. "But my God, the kid’s messed up. He needs help. Put him away. I’m sorry. He should not be out in society, and I think the jury could see that."

The same jury convicted Fields on Friday in Heyer's death and the injuries to dozens of others with his car.

They found that Fields had purposefully rammed his Dodge Challenger into the crowd of counterprotesters after the rally in August 2017. The "Unite the Right" protesters were there in part to fight the removal of a Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee statue.

Prosecutors said Fields was angry over fighting between the two sides and had posted images of cars hitting groups of people on Instagram before the rally.

Fields' attorney, John Hill, argued that he panicked and was scared when he drove his car into the group and that his client had shown remorse.

But prosecutors also played surveillance video showing Fields driving his car slowly toward the group, before putting his car in reverse and then speeding into them.

Fields, 21, was also charged with 30 federal hate crimes. He still faces trial on those charges, and could face the death penalty if convicted of the charge related to Heyer's death.