Neo-Nazi in Charlottesville car rampage trial denies murder

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia — An American neo-Nazi denies murder charges at the start of his trial Monday for allegedly ramming his car into counter-protesters at a 2017 white supremacist rally that made the city of Charlottesville a byword for rising racial tensions under US President Donald Trump.

James Fields, 21, also pleads not guilty to hit-and-run charges and eight counts of causing serious injury to others struck by the black Dodge Challenger he is accused of driving at the “Unite the Right” protest on August 12, 2017.

The rampage in Virginia resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, 32, and highlighted the growing audacity of the far right under Trump, whose rhetoric and policies are blamed by critics for a spike in racist and anti-Semitic violence.

Jury selection began Monday morning and is expected to last around two days, with the full trial expected to take up to three weeks.

Police put up plastic barriers around the courthouse building, anticipating crowds later in the week, and four armed officers stood guard.

If convicted of first degree murder Fields faces 20 years to life in prison. His legal team earlier failed to shift the trial away from Charlottesville, where they argued it would be impossible to impanel an unbiased jury.

Fields has been separately charged with federal hate crimes, including one offense which carries the death penalty.


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