Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers sentenced to life, 35 years on hate crimes
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[August 09, 2022]
By Rich McKay
BRUNSWICK, Ga. (Reuters) -A judge sentenced
a white father and son to life in prison and their neighbor to 35 years
on Monday for a federal hate crime in the 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery,
a Black man shot after jogging in a suburban Georgia neighborhood.
Travis McMichael, a 36-year-old former U.S. Coast Guard mechanic, his
father Gregory McMichael, a 66-year-old former Glynn County police
officer who later worked for the local prosecutor's office, and William
"Roddie" Bryan, a 52-year-old mechanic, were sentenced in the coastal
city of Brunswick.
The three already are serving life sentences after being convicted of
murder in a state trial last November, with only Bryan given the
possibility of parole. All three then were convicted in February of
federal charges of violating Arbery's civil rights by attacking him
because of his race and of attempted kidnapping, with the McMichaels
also found guilty of a firearms charge.
They were sentenced on the federal charges in separate hearings on
Monday by U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood. In handing down the
younger McMichael's sentence first, Wood said widely seen cellphone
video of him shooting Arbery, 25, at close range with a shotgun was
seared into her memory.
"You acted because of the color of Mr. Arbery's skin," the judge told
McMichael, who looked ashen as the sentence was pronounced.
"I do know that you received a fair trial, it is that kind of a trial
that Ahmaud Arbery did not receive before he was shot and killed," the
Gregory McMichael, speaking to the court before he was sentenced, told
Arbery's family, "The loss that you've endured is beyond description."
Some of Arbery's relatives wiped away tears in a courtroom crowded with
spectators who included civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.
"I'm sure that my words mean very little to you, but I want to assure
you I never wanted any of this to happen," Gregory McMichael said.
"There was no malice in my heart or my son's heart that day."
He apologized to his son, who declined his own chance to testify, and to
his wife, who began sobbing. He did not explicitly apologize to Arbery's
During his hearing, Bryan said, "I'm glad to finally have the chance to
say to Arbery's family and friends how sorry I am for what happened to
him on that day."
The judge said Bryan deserved a shorter sentence than the McMichaels
because he did not bring a gun to the chase.
But the judge also said, "You do not deserve a light sentence." She
added that Bryan would be about 90 years old before he completes his
Marcus Arbery, the slain man's father, told the court during the first
hearing: "These three devils have broken my heart into pieces that
cannot be found or repaired." Referring to Travis McMichael, he added:
"You hate Black people."
[to top of second column]
A poster depicting Ahmaud Arbery is seen outside the Glynn County
Courthouse while Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and
William "Roddie" Bryan are tried over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery,
in Brunswick, Georgia, U.S., November 23, 2021. REUTERS/Marco Bello
"I struggled to come to the realization that a father could actually
accompany his son to take a life," Wanda Cooper Jones, Arbery's
mother, told the second hearing in urging a life sentence for
Lawyers for the McMichaels and Bryan on Monday referred to other
deaths of Black Americans, including George Floyd and the 10 men and
women shot at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
The defense lawyers argued their clients should not be treated more
harshly than others similarly accused in a series of cases that have
drawn attention to racism and violence in the United States.
Arbery, an avid jogger and fitness buff, was running through the
leafy, mostly white Satilla Shores neighborhood, near Brunswick, on
a February 2020 afternoon when the McMichaels decided to grab their
guns, jump in a pickup truck and give chase. Their neighbor Bryan
joined the chase in his own pickup truck and pulled out his
cellphone to record Travis McMichael firing a shotgun at Arbery at
close range. Arbery had nothing on him besides his running clothes
The video emerged months later, prompting protests in many U.S.
cities because the three men had not been arrested after a local
prosecutor concluded the killing was justified.
The McMichaels had said they believed that Arbery appeared
suspicious, speaking of a series of neighborhood break-ins. No
evidence ever emerged connecting Arbery to any Satilla Shore thefts.
In addition to a life sentence, Travis McMichael was given an
additional 10-year sentence for using a firearm in commission of the
crime, and Gregory McMichael was given an additional seven years for
brandishing a gun.
The three had been convicted in state court of murder, aggravated
assault, false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony,
with a jury rejecting self-defense claims. They have appealed.
The three had sought to be transferred out of the state prison
system into a federal prison they perceived as safer. Wood said the
rules require that they return to the state prison system where they
are serving life sentences.
(Reporting by Rich McKay in Brunswick, Ga.; Additional reporting by
Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Will Dunham and Donna Bryson)
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