U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen, left, speaks to the media along with FBI agent James Dwyer, right, after a plea agreement with James Alex Fields, who was charged with 30 counts stemming from a car attack in 2017, in Charlottesville, Va.,  March 27, 2019
U.S. Attorney Thomas Cullen, left, speaks to the media along with FBI agent James Dwyer, right, after a plea agreement with James Alex Fields, who was charged with 30 counts stemming from a car attack in 2017, in Charlottesville, Va., March 27, 2019

A self-professed neo-Nazi pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal hate crimes in the death of a protester in the 2017 Charlottesville white supremacist rally.

James Fields has already been convicted on state charges of plowing his car into a group of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

Fields didn't speak in court except to respond, "Yes sir," when the judge asked him if he understood the charges to which he was pleading guilty.

Under a deal with prosecutors, Fields pleaded guilty to 29 of 30 federal hate charges. The one charge to which he did not plead guilty carries the death penalty.

FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Alb
FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail shows James Alex Fields.

Fields' lawyers did not deny that he drove into the crowd but said he acted in self-defense.

The August 2017 Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally was organized as a march against the city's plans to tear down a statue of Civil War Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

But it turned into a white supremacist rally, with a number of young men carrying torches and bellowing anti-Semitic slogans.

They were met by hundreds of counterprotesters. Police tried but failed to keep the two sides apart before violence broke out.

President Donald Trump added fuel to the controversy when he blamed both sides for the violence and added that there were some "very fine people" among the white supremacists.

Fields faces life in prison when he is sentenced July 3. His sentencing on the state charges is scheduled for July 15, when he could also be sent to prison for the rest of his life.