Defense witness held in contempt for delaying trial ‘Unite the Right’ murder trial
Defense witness Joshua Matthews was charged with failing to appear in court Thursday afternoon for delaying proceedings in the trial of James Alex Fields Jr., an Ohio man charged in connection with killing a counterprotester during the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Judge Richard Moore ordered Mr. Matthews to be held in contempt and taken into custody for failing to appear on time to testify in Charlottesville Circuit Court, local outlets reported.
The defense’s final witness, Mr. Matthews was absent from court when he was initially called to the stand during the ninth day of proceedings Thursday morning, WHSV-TV reported. A warrant was subsequently issued for his arrest, and he ultimately appeared after 1 p.m., according to the outlet.
Mr. Matthews eventually testified and was subsequently held in contempt and taken into custody, The Daily Progress newspaper reported.
An attorney for Mr. Matthews could not immediately be identified or reached for comment.
Prior to being arrested, Mr. Matthews testified that he met Mr. Fields on Aug. 12, 2017, after the doomed “Unite the Right” rally was declared an unlawful assembly by police, according to the report.
Mr. Fields, 21, “seemed calm and normal like everybody else. Maybe a little bit scared,” Mr. Matthews told the court, The Daily Progress reported.
Prosecutors said Mr. Fields later drove his gray Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people who had gathered to protest the rally, killing one person and injuring several others.
Closing arguments in the trial are slated to start Thursday.
Billed as a rally held in support of a Confederate monument, “Unite the Right” descended into chaos when fights broke out on the morning of the event between counterprotesters and far-right participants, including white nationalists and neo-Nazis.
Mr. Fields “feared for his safety and was scared to death” when he drove into a crowd of counterprotesters, defense attorney John Hill said during opening statements.
He has been charged with first-degree murder and federal hate crime charges.