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Texas man who participated in 2017 torch-wielding mob at UVa sentenced

Days before one of the White supremacists who participated in the 2017 torch-carrying mob at the University of Virginia was set to go to trial — the first such case to make it to trial — one of the other participants was sentenced.

Colton Gene Fears, a 35-year-old resident of Pasadena, Texas, was sentenced Friday to five years behind bars. But that sentence was drastically reduced by presiding Judge Claude Worrell, effectively rendering Fears’ sentence the shortest of any of the participants who have thus far pleaded guilty to using fire to racially intimidate the night of Aug. 11, 2017.

“All suspended but time served,” according to the clerk’s worksheet filed in Albemarle County Circuit Court.

That means Fears got a little more than a month in jail, as the court record indicates that he was arrested Sept. 14 and released on bail when he pleaded guilty on Oct. 24. His personal recognizance bail allowed him to return home to Texas.

Fears was a visible presence in Charlottesville on both Aug. 11 and Aug. 12 of 2017, the night of the torch-lit march at UVa and the day of the deadly Unite the Right rally-turned-riot in downtown Charlottesville, respectively. In addition to wielding a torch at the Aug. 11 march, the following day he was witnessed carrying a shield featuring the “black sun” or “sun wheel,” known in German as a “sonnenrad,” a popular symbol of the Nazi Third Reich. Today, the imagery is popular among violent White supremacists and neo-Nazis, including the man who murdered 51 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.

Affixed to Fears’ shield the morning of Aug. 12, 2017, in Charlottesville was a sticker touting, a web address crafted from a Nazi slogan.

“Join us in the struggle for race and nation,” his sticker urged.

Fears did not fare well legally after Charlottesville. Two months after one of Fears’ fellow White supremacists drove a car through a crowd of counterprotesters on Aug. 12, 2017, killing one and injuring several others, Fears himself was the driver of a car nearly involved in bloodshed in Gainesville, Florida.

After a heckler-heavy Florida speech by White supremacist and would-be Unite the Right speaker Richard Spencer, Fears was behind the wheel of a Jeep that was reportedly attacked by some of Spencer’s detractors. One of the Jeep’s passengers fired a shot toward the people on foot.

While nobody was injured, Fears pleaded guilty in Alachua County Circuit Court as accessory to attempted murder and received a five-year sentence.

Fears’ brother William also was in the Jeep that day. And while a charge against William Fears was later dropped, he was twice convicted of domestic violence in Texas, received a one-year sentence for his role in the 2017 UVa march and now faces a firearms charge in Pennsylvania.

During his Florida sentencing, Colton Fears reportedly renounced his White nationalist past. At the time of his Albemarle County indictment last spring, he had been out of jail for a little over a year and was working, according to his bail sheet, as an electrician for a company that outfits oil-drilling operations.

Prior to last week’s sentencing, Colton Fears secured a bail modification that allowed him to travel to other states for oilfield work.

Neither prosecutor Armin Zijerdi, standing in that day for Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Lawton Tufts, nor Fears’ lawyer Jessica Phillips would comment on the sentencing, and Phillips declined make the defendant available for comment.

Attention may soon turn to what is shaping up to be a more contested case, as jury selection begins Tuesday in the trial of Jacob Joseph Dix, the first participant in the 2017 march to contest his charges.

Dix’s lawyer, Peter Frazier, recently alleged that Dix has been targeted by prosecutors for his square-jawed, blond-haired appearance.

“He’s who they want getting perp-walked out of this courthouse because he looks like a Nazi,” Frazier said of the 29-year-old defendant from Clarksville, Ohio.


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