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

The father and son found guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery were both sentenced Monday to an additional life sentence for federal hate crimes, while their neighbor was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

A judge also demanded that Travis McMichael, 36, Greg McMichael, 66, and William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, serve their sentences in state prison, not federal prison, as requested. their lawyers.

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

The McMichaels and Bryan, who are all white, were convicted in February of federal hate crime charges in the murder of Arbery, a black man who was running in their neighborhood when defendants confronted him in February 2020. The three men were found guilty of all federal charges against them, including hate crimes, attempted kidnapping and use of a firearm to commit a crime.

Prosecutors have requested life sentences for all three men.

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

“It’s not lost on the ground that two men brought guns to this situation that had their worst effect and you weren’t one of them,” she said. She added, however, that Bryan “still deserved an awfully long sentence.”

“By the time you serve your federal sentence, you’ll be nearly 90. But again, Mr. Arbery never had the good fortune to be 26,” she said. “I have determined that the sentence imposed is a very long summary and that 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 mourned for Ahmaud. “.

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

Amy Lee Copeland, Travis McMichael’s lawyer, asked during his 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 in police custody. AJ Balbo, an attorney for Greg McMichael, told the judge he was not medically “fit” to serve his sentence in state prison.

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

The prosecution and members of Arbery’s family requested that the McMichaels serve their sentence in state prison.

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

His father, whose life sentence includes an additional seven years, spoke to Arbery’s family, telling them that “the loss you have suffered is indescribable. There are no words for that.

He added that he “never wanted this to happen. There was no malice in my heart, nor 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 am, for what happened to him that day. I never meant to hurt him,” Bryan said. “And I never would have played a part in what happened if I had known then what I know now.”

Marcus Arbery, Ahmaud Arbery’s father, said before sentencing that “these three demons have broken my heart into pieces that cannot be found or repaired” and asked the court to impose the most possibly severe.

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

Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, says Travis McMichael “took my baby.”

“I feel every shot fired every day,” she said.

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

The federal hate crimes trial centered on the three men’s histories and their racial biases, a ground prosecutors in the state’s case have largely avoided, even though Arbery’s murder has drawn attention nation as the United States relied on systemic institutional racism and bias in policing. .

“The Department of Justice’s prosecution in this case and the convictions handed down by the court today make it clear that hate crimes have no place in our country and that the Department will not relent in its efforts to hold those who commit them are held accountable,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “Protecting civil rights and addressing white supremacist violence was a founding goal of the Justice Department, and a goal we will continue to pursue with the urgency it demands.”

The McMichaels and Bryan chased 25-year-old Arbery through their coastal Georgia neighborhood in trucks. The men, who spotted Arbery running near their home, 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, after the video came out from Bryan’s phone and growing national attention. The case was later taken over by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Image: Ahmaud Arbery
Ahmad Arbery.Courtesy of the family

Arbery’s family and civil rights leaders compared his death to a modern lynching.

The Mc Michaels attempted to plead guilty to hate crime charges before the trial, but the plea agreement was dismissed by judge after Arbery’s parents protested that the men could serve their sentences in federal prison instead of state.

Federal prosecutors worked to establish that Arbery’s murder was motivated by strong male bias against black people. The witnesses included an FBI analyst who scoured the social media history of the men and neighbors and former colleagues of the McMichaels, who all testified that the father and son made disturbing racist jokes, rants and statements and were open about their negative feelings towards black people. .

The defense said the social media messages and posts were taken out of context and while they said troubling things, they insisted the men were not driven by their racial biases to pursue and kill Arbery.

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

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