CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — In a case that stirred racial tensions across the country, a self-avowed white supremacist pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal hate crime charges in a deadly attack at a white nationalist rally in Virginia, admitting that he intentionally plowed his speeding car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, killing a woman and injuring dozens.
James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, pleaded guilty to 29 of 30 federal charges stemming from the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017.
Under a plea agreement, federal prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against Fields and will dismiss the one count that carried death as a possible punishment. The charges he pleaded guilty to call for life in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
Fields appeared stoic, with his hands folded in front of him for much of the hearing. He repeatedly responded “yes, sir,” when U.S. District Judge Michael Urbanski asked him if he was pleading guilty knowingly and voluntarily.
Under a “statement of facts,” Fields admitted that he “expressed and promoted” white supremacist ideology through his social media accounts and engaged in white supremacist chants during the rally in Charlottesville. He also admitted driving his car into the ethnically diverse crowd of anti-racism protesters because of their race, colour, religion or national origin.
Urbanski scheduled sentencing for July 3.
Fields, 21, was convicted in December in a Virginia court of first-degree murder and other state charges for killing anti-racism activist Heather Heyer and injuring dozens of others who were protesting against the white nationalists.
The rally drew hundreds of white nationalists to Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Hundreds of counterprotesters demonstrated against the white nationalists.
President Donald Trump sparked a national uproar when he blamed the violence at the rally on “both sides,” a statement critics saw as a refusal to condemn racism.
After Tuesday’s hearing, U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen said he hoped the plea agreement would help the victims move on with their lives.
“The defendant’s hate-inspired act of domestic terrorism not only devastated Heather Heyer’s wonderful family and the 28 peaceful protesters … but it also left an indelible mark on the city of Charlottesville, our state and our country,” Cullen said.
Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, said she and Heyer’s father agreed they did not want prosecutors to seek the death penalty.
“There’s no point in killing him,” she said. “It would not bring back Heather.”
Cullen said prosecutors had been in talks with Fields’ lawyers for months about a potential plea agreement, but did not seek to finalize a deal until U.S. Attorney General William Barr last week authorized him not to seek the death penalty if Fields agreed to plead to 29 counts.
The car attack by Fields came after violent brawling between the two sides prompted police to disband the crowds.
During his state trial, prosecutors said Fields — who described himself on social media as an admirer of Adolf Hitler — drove his car into the crowd because he was angry after witnessing earlier clashes between the white nationalists and the counterprotesters.
The jury rejected a claim by Fields’ lawyers that he acted in self-defence because he feared for his life after witnessing the earlier violence.
During the plea hearing Wednesday, Fields — responding to questions from the judge — said he has been treated for mental health issues since he was 6. He said he is currently on medication for bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, schizoid disorder, explosive onset disorder and ADHD.
More than 30 people were hurt in the car attack. Some who received life-altering injuries described them in anguished detail during the state trial.
Jurors in Fields’ state trial recommended a life sentence plus 419 years, although a judge still has to decide on the punishment. Sentencing is scheduled for July 15.
A reporter asked Bro if she thought her daughter’s death had served some purpose, such as opening a discussion of race relations. She answered: “Sadly, it took a white girl dying before anyone paid attention to civil rights around here … Heather’s death is at least a catalyst for change.”
Bro said she wouldn’t have chosen that catalyst and added, “I wish we would have woken up sooner.”
Children’s aid society was told months ago its lawyer had argued a 14-year-old girl is a ‘sexually mature young woman’ on its behalf
Bill Leonard, executive director of Kenora-Rainy River Districts Child and Family Services, acknowledged the plaintiff in an ongoing sex abuse case had contacted him over the statement, made by the group’s lawyer last October.
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WASHINGTON — Barbara Bush says Donald Trump caused her “angst” during the 2016 election and led her to question whether she was still a Republican in the months before she died.
The late former first lady’s thoughts about Trump were revealed in excerpts published Wednesday in USA Today of an upcoming biography, “The Matriarch.”
In a February 2018 interview, Bush was asked if she still considered herself a Republican. She replied, “I’d probably say ‘no’ today.”
She died in April at age 92.
Bush recalls drafting a funny letter to mail after the election congratulating Bill Clinton on becoming a presidential spouse. But Bush said when she woke up, she realized “to my horror that Trump had won.”
A friend gave Bush a clock that counted down the time remaining in Trump’s first term that she kept at her bedside.
The Associated Press
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LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May told Conservative lawmakers Wednesday that she will step down once the U.K.’s exit from the European Union is delivered — a dramatic concession meant to bring enough of her colleagues on board to push her deal over the line.
May told a party meeting of legislators that she was aware of a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations.
“I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party,” she said, according to a transcript released by her office. “I ask everyone in this room to back the deal so we can complete our historic duty – to deliver on the decision of the British people and leave the European Union with a smooth and orderly exit.”
May has been under mounting pressure from pro-Brexit members of her Conservative Party to quit. Several have said they would support the withdrawal deal if another leader was chosen to lead the next stage of negotiations, which will determine Britain’s future relations with the EU.
In a packed meeting described by participants as “sombre,” May finally conceded she would have to go, although she did not set a departure date.
Anti-EU lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has clashed with May throughout the Brexit process, said she had been “very clear” that if Britain leaves the EU on May 22, she will quit soon after.
He said the prime minister had been “very dignified.”
“She out her case well, and reiterated that she had done her duty,” he said.
May’s announcement came as British lawmakers debated multiple options for leaving the EU as they sought to bring some clarity to the tortured Brexit process and stop the country tumbling out of the bloc within weeks with no exit plan in place.
In the wake of two overwhelming defeats for May’s withdrawal agreement with the EU, the House of Commons seized control of the parliamentary timetable for debate and votes on a range of Brexit alternatives.
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow selected eight widely differing options for votes from a list of 16 submitted by lawmakers. They include calls to leave the EU without a deal, to stay in the EU’s customs union and single market, to put any EU divorce deal to a public referendum, and to cancel Brexit if the prospect of a no-deal departure gets close.
Later in the day, lawmakers will vote on all of the options they could accept. The plan is for the most popular ideas to move to a second vote Monday to find one option that can command a majority. Parliament would then instruct the government to negotiate it with the EU.
May has said she will consider the outcome of the votes, though she has refused to be bound by the result.
The government condemned lawmakers’ move to seize control because it upends the usual practice in which the government sets the timetable for debate and votes in Parliament.
But Conservative lawmaker Oliver Letwin, one of those behind Wednesday’s votes, said “this is not an insurgency.”
“This process has come about as a result of the increasing concern that many of us have had across the House of Commons that we were heading not towards an approval of the prime minister’s deal, but alas towards a no-deal exit,” he said.
Almost three years after Britons voted to leave the EU, the date and terms of its departure are up in the air. Last week, the EU granted Britain a delay to the scheduled March 29 exit date, saying that if Parliament approves the proposed divorce deal this week, the U.K. will leave the EU on May 22. If not, the government has until April 12 to tell the 27 remaining EU countries what it plans to do — leave without a deal, cancel Brexit or propose a radically new path.
May, meanwhile, still hopes to bring the divorce deal that the government struck with the EU back for another vote in the House of Commons — if she can win over enough opponents to ensure passage. Lawmakers rejected the deal by 230 votes in January and by 149 votes earlier this month, primarily because of concerns about the Northern Ireland border.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said he had introduced a motion to have Parliament meet on Friday if needed so a vote could be held. But it remained unclear whether it would go ahead, since Bercow said Wednesday he would not accept another vote on the twice-rejected deal unless substantial changes were made.
House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom told the BBC there was a “real possibility” the unpopular agreement would be brought back for a vote on Thursday or Friday.
Tony Travers, a professor of government at the London School of Economics, said the parliamentary votes could boost support for May’s deal by convincing pro-Brexit lawmakers that a withdrawal might be delayed or abandoned.
Rees-Mogg, who has sought a complete break from the bloc, said May’s deal is still a bad one, but “the risk is, if I don’t back it, we don’t leave the EU at all.”
“I think we have got to the point where legally leaving is better than not leaving at all,” he told the BBC. “Half a loaf is better than no bread.”
But Rees-Mogg said he would not back the deal unless Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party decided to vote for it. The DUP, which has 10 seats in the House of Commons, said Tuesday it still wasn’t prepared to support the “toxic” deal.
Wednesday’s votes in Parliament could potentially produce conflicting and inconclusive results. But they could push Britain in the direction of a softer Brexit that keeps Britain closely tied economically to the EU.
That would probably require the U.K. to seek a longer delay, although that would mean that the country would have to take part in May 23-26 European Parliament elections.
Many EU officials are keen to avoid the messy participation of a departing member state.
But the chief of the European Council told European lawmakers that the EU should let Britain take part if the country indicated it planned to change course on Brexit.
Donald Tusk said the bloc could not “betray” the millions of Britons who want to stay in the EU.
“They may feel they are not sufficiently represented by the U.K. Parliament but they must feel that are represented by you in this chamber. Because they are Europeans,” Tusk said.
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NEW YORK — Anna Sorokin travelled in celebrity circles and tossed $100 tips — all the more reason to believe she was the German heiress she said she was. But behind the jet-set lifestyle and pricey threads, prosecutors have said, was a fraudster who bilked friends, banks and hotels for a taste of the high life.
Sorokin, 28, lived in luxury New York City hotel rooms she couldn’t afford, promised a friend an all-expenses paid trip to Morocco and then stuck her with the $62,000 bill, and peddled bogus bank statements in a quest for a $22 million loan, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has alleged.
On Wednesday, the one-time darling of the Big Apple social scene went on trial on grand larceny and theft of services charges alleging she swindled various people and businesses out of $275,000 in a 10-month odyssey that saw her jetting to the Midwest and Marrakesh before landing in a cell at Rikers Island.
“Her overall scheme has been to claim to be a wealthy German heiress with approximately $60 million in funds being held abroad,” prosecutor Catherine McCaw said after Sorokin’s October 2017 arrest. “She’s born in Russia and has not a cent to her name as far as we can determine.”
Sorokin’s lawyer said she never intended to commit a crime.
Lawyer Todd Spodek told jurors in an opening statement that Sorokin was exploited a system “easily seduced by glamour and glitz” after she saw how the appearance of wealth opened doors. Spodek said she was merely buying time, so she could launch a business and repay her debts.
“Anna had to fake it until she could make it,” Spodek said.
Sorokin, jailed since her arrest, faces deportation to Germany regardless of the outcome of the trial because authorities say she overstayed her visa. Her story, however, may stick around. Shonda Rhimes, the force behind “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” has announced she is creating a television series about Sorokin, whose Instagram bio says: “soon on Netflix.”
Sorokin arrived in the world of champagne wishes and caviar dreams in 2016 with a new name (Anna Delvey) and a wardrobe to match (Celine sunglasses, Gucci sandals and high-end buys from Net-a-Porter and Elyse Walker). She made a show of proving she belonged, passing crisp Benjamins to Uber drivers and hotel concierges, but she gave varying accounts for the source of her wealth, according to people who knew her.
At different times, they said, she’d claim her father was a diplomat, an oil baron or a solar panel muckity-muck. In reality, her father told New York magazine, he’s a former trucker who runs a heating-and-cooling business.
At first, people around Sorokin didn’t see a red flag when she asked them to put cabs and plane fares on their credit cards — she sometimes said she had trouble moving her assets from Europe, they said — and they laughed it off as forgetfulness when they had to hound her to pay them back.
“It was a magic trick,” Rachel Williams, the friend from the Morocco trip, wrote in Vanity Fair. “I’m embarrassed to say that I was one of the props, and the audience, too. Anna’s was a beautiful dream of New York, like one of those nights that never seems to end. And then the bill arrives.”
As she ingratiated herself into the New York party scene, prosecutors said, Sorokin started talking up plans to spend tens of millions of dollars building a private arts club with exhibitions, installations and pop-up shops. She thought about calling it the Anna Delvey Foundation.
Sorokin kept up the heiress ruse as she went looking for a $22 million loan for the club in November 2016, prosecutors said. She claimed the loan would be secured by a letter of credit from UBS in Switzerland and showed statements purporting to substantiate her assets, according to an outline of the charges.
One bank rejected Sorokin because she “did not have sufficient cash flow to make loan payments,” prosecutors said. She bailed on another firm when it pressured her for a meeting with a UBS banker who could verify her assets, prosecutors said. At the same time, Spodek said, one of the firm’s executives sent Sorokin provocative texts, telling her she was “beautiful inside and out,” that he was “forcing myself not to kiss you” and asking to come up to her hotel room.
While seeking the loan, prosecutors said, Sorokin convinced one bank to lend her $100,000 to cover due diligence costs. She ended up keeping $55,000 and “frittered away these funds on personal expenses in about one month’s time,” prosecutors said. A few months later, in May 2017, Sorokin allegedly chartered a plane to and from the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, but never paid the $35,400 bill.
Broke and facing a big bill at a midtown Manhattan hotel in July 2017, Sorokin pleaded with a police officer that a bailout was on the way, prosecutors said.
“I have no money and no credit cards. I’m waiting for my aunt from Germany. She’s going to pay,” Sorokin said, according to court documents. “I’m not trying to run. Why are you making a big deal about this? Give me five minutes, and I can get a friend to pay.”
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