A federal grand jury indicted the suspect behind last summer's deadly vehicle incident in Charlottesville, Virginia, on federal hate crime charges Wednesday.How is this a crime?
James Alex Fields, Jr., who was arrested in Charlottesville last August, was indicted on 30 counts, including a hate crime resulting in death and bodily injury, and racially motivated violent interference with "federally protected activity" of using public streets.
The indictment adds a new federal civil rights dimension to the case that captured the nation's attention when supremacist groups descended on the Virginia city and violent clashes erupted.
Prosecutors say Fields killed Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old Charlottesville paralegal, and injured others when he plowed into a crowd demonstrating against the "Unite the Right" rally. The event drew self-described "white nationalists" and other organizations who opposed the city's decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park.
Fields and Heyer both appear white. The indictment alleges some other injuries, but non of the victims are alleged to be non-white.
Fields is separately charged with murder, and I certainly agree with stiff punishment if he intended to hit Heyer. I don't know if he did or not. From the video I saw, it seems possible that he was just trying to evade thugs who were battering his car.
I just do not see how there is a separate federal crime.
The indictment says: "FIELDS expressed and promoted his belief that white people are superior to other races and peoples". Okay, he is entitled to his opinion.
It also says: "The rally ... was scheduled to feature a lineup of well-known white supremacist speakers." The city canceled the rally because it was unable or unwilling to control rioting counter-protesters. The rally organizers had lefts, and had nothing to do with the violent clash.
This indictment is political, and appears to have been done to appease the white-haters who were protesting the confederate monuments.
Update: The US Supreme Court has just agreed to hear another such double jeopardy case. At least two justices agree that these double prosecutions are unconstitutional.