Father and son sentenced to life in prison, neighbor gets 35 years for federal hate crimes in killing of Ahmaud Arbery

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The father and son convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery received an additional life sentence Monday for federal hate crimes, while their neighbor was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

A judge also required Travis McMichael, 36, Greg McMichael, 66, and William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, to serve their sentences in state prison, not federal prison, as their families had requested lawyers

“A young man is dead. Ahmaud Arbery will be 25 years old forever. And what happened, a jury found, happened because he’s black,” U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood said during Greg’s sentencing McMichael.

McMichael and Bryan, all white, were found guilty in February of federal hate crimes in the killing of Arbery, a black man jogging in their neighborhood when the defendants confronted each other in February 2020. The three men they were convicted of all federal charges against them, including hate crimes, attempted kidnapping and using a firearm to commit a felony.

Prosecutors asked for life sentences for the three men.

However, Godbey Wood said he thought it was necessary to distinguish Bryan from the McMichaels, in part because, unlike his neighbors, he did not have a gun with him when the men chased Arbery.

“It’s not lost on the trail that two men brought guns to that situation that had its worst effect and you weren’t one of them,” he said. He added, however, that Bryan “still deserved a very long sentence.”

“By the time you serve your federal sentence, you will be close to 90 years old. But then again, Mr. Arbery never had the opportunity to be 26,” he said. “I determined that the sentence imposed is a very long summary judgment and it is one that has been earned.”

Prosecutor Tara Lyons called the sentencing hearings “the end of at least one chapter of an excruciatingly painful journey for Ahmaud Arbery’s family, for his community and for an entire nation that has mourned for Ahmaud.” .

The men were sentenced separately in back-to-back trials on Monday.

Amy Lee Copeland, Travis McMichael’s attorney, asked during the sentencing that the judge allow her client to serve his sentence in federal prison because, she said, he had received “hundreds of threats” and would likely be killed under state custody AJ Balbo, an attorney for Greg McMichael, told the judge that he was medically “unfit” to serve his sentence in state prison.

Both Copeland and Balbo also said they were concerned about a Justice Department investigation into inmate violence in the Georgia state prison system.

Prosecutors and Arbery’s family members asked that the McMichaels serve their sentences in state prison.

Travis McMichael, sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years, declined to speak before the judge announced his decision.

Her father, whose life sentence includes an additional seven years, addressed Arbery’s family, telling them “the loss you have suffered is beyond description. There are no words for it.”

He added that he “never wanted any of this to happen. There was no malice in my heart, or in my son’s heart, that day.”

The elder McMichael also apologized to his son, saying he “should never have put him in this situation.”

Bryan also apologized to Arbery’s family.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, for what happened to him that day. I never meant to hurt him,” Bryan said. “And I would never have had any part in what happened if I knew then what I know now.”

Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud Arbery’s father, said before sentencing that “these three devils have broken my heart into pieces that cannot be found or mended” and asked the court to hand down the harshest sentence possible.

“You killed him because he was a black man and you hate black people,” he said.

Wanda Cooper-Jones, the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, said Travis McMichael “took my son.”

“I hear every shot that’s fired every day,” he said.

The federal case followed a state trial in November in which the men were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. They have appealed their convictions in this case.

The federal hate crime trial focused on the history of the three men and their racial bias, a theme that prosecutors in the state case largely avoided, although Arbery’s killing won the national attention when the United States considered systemic institutional racism and bias in policing. .

“The Department of Justice’s prosecution of this case and the court’s rulings today make it clear that hate crimes have no place in our country and that the Department will be relentless in our efforts to hold those who perpetrate them accountable ” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Protecting civil rights and combating white supremacist violence was a founding purpose of the Justice Department and one we will continue to pursue with the urgency it demands.”

The McMichaels and Bryan chased Arbery, 25, around their coastal Georgia neighborhood in trucks. The men, who saw Arbery running through their homes, cornered him and Travis McMichael fatally shot him with a shotgun. Bryan filmed the fatal encounter on his cell phone.

The men were arrested months after the shooting, following the release of Bryan’s phone video and growing national attention. The case was then taken over by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Image: Ahmaud ArberyAhmaud Arbery.Courtesy of Family

Arbery’s family and civil rights leaders have compared her death to a modern-day lynching.

The McMichaels tried to plead guilty to the hate crime charges before trial, but the plea deal was rejected by the judge after Arbery’s parents protested that the men could serve time in federal prison in place of the state

Federal prosecutors worked to establish that Arbery’s murder was motivated by the men’s strong prejudice against blacks. Witnesses included an FBI analyst who reviewed the men’s social media stories and the McMichaels’ neighbors and former co-workers, who testified that the father and son made disturbing racist jokes, slurs and statements and were open about their negative feelings toward blacks. .

The defense said the messages and social media posts were taken out of context and that while they had said disturbing things, they insisted the men were not motivated by their racial bias to chase and kill Arbery.

This month, Greg McMichael’s lawyer asked the judge not to impose a life sentence, although he said his client still deserves “a substantial period of imprisonment.” The Associated Press reported. McMichael’s defense team also asked the judge to transfer him to federal prison, where he could avoid serving time for the murder in the Georgia state prison system.

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