The Latest: New 1st-degree murder charge in car ramming

This photo provided by the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail shows James Alex Fields Jr., who was charged with second-degree murder and other counts after authorities say he rammed his car into a crowd of protesters Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va., where a white supremacist rally took place. Fields has a preliminary court hearing in Charlottesville on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. (Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail via AP)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The Latest on a hearing for an Ohio man accused of driving into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in August (all times local):

6 p.m.

The Ohio man accused of ramming a car into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally this summer in Charlottesville has had his most serious charge upgraded to first-degree murder.

Twenty-year-old James Alex Fields appeared in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing. Prosecutors said they filed a motion earlier in the day to amend the second-degree murder charge he previously faced.

The judge certified the murder charge and all others against Fields. His case will now be presented to a grand jury for an indictment.

The judge also certified charges against three other defendants in cases related to the August rally.

Fields' attorney did not present evidence or make any arguments at the hearing, although she did cross-examine a prosecution witness. Fields sat quietly in a striped jumpsuit with his hands cuffed.

Authorities say Fields barreled into the crowd Aug. 12 after attendees of a white nationalist rally had been forced to disband.

____

12:20 p.m.

The scene outside a Virginia courtroom is quiet ahead of a preliminary hearing for an Ohio man accused of driving into a crowd of counterprotesters the day of a white nationalist rally in August.

Street traffic around the courthouse in Charlottesville was closed Thursday afternoon, and officers were posted around the premises, including an officer with a gun on a rooftop.

Reporters and cameramen surrounded the courthouse, but no other people gathered ahead of the preliminary hearing.

Twenty-year-old James Alex Fields of Maumee, Ohio, faces second-degree murder and other charges in the Aug. 12 attack that killed one woman and injured dozens of others.

___

4:30 a.m.

A man accused of ramming a car into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, is due in court on charges including second-degree murder.

A preliminary hearing is planned Thursday afternoon to establish whether prosecutors have enough evidence to seek an indictment against 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., of Maumee, Ohio, for the crash that killed one woman and injured dozens of others.

Any conviction on a second-degree murder charge carries up to 40 years in prison under Virginia law.

Authorities say Fields barreled into the crowd Aug. 12 as the town was being rocked by chaos from one of the largest gatherings of white nationalists and far-right extremists in a decade.

Fields' attorney and prosecutors declined comment.

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