BRUNSWICK, Ga. –
The white father and son convicted of murder in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery after they chased him through a Georgia neighborhood were sentenced Monday to life in prison for committing a federal hate crime.
A US District Court judge sentenced Travis McMichael and his father Greg McMichael, 66, in Brunswick. Both were previously sentenced to life in prison without parole in state court for Arbery’s murder.
In February, a federal jury convicted Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan of violating Arbery’s civil rights, concluding they targeted him because he was black. All three were also convicted of attempted kidnapping, and the McMichaels were convicted of using weapons in the commission of a violent crime.
The McMichaels armed themselves with weapons and used a pickup truck to chase Arbery after the 25-year-old ran past their home on Feb. 23, 2020. Bryan joined the chase in his own truck and recorded phone video. cell phone of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery with a shotgun
The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery of being a thief. Investigators determined that he was unarmed and had committed no crime.
US District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood said Monday that Travis McMichael had received a fair trial.
“And it’s not lost on the court that it was the kind of trial Ahmaud Arbery didn’t get before he was shot to death,” the judge said.
Before the two sentences, he heard from members of Arbery’s family. Her mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said she feels every shot fired at her son every day.
“It’s so unfair, so unfair, so unfair that he was killed when he wasn’t even committing a crime,” he said.
Greg McMichael addressed the Arbery family before he was sentenced, saying their loss was “beyond description.”
“I’m sure my words mean very little to you, but I want to assure you that I never meant for any of this to happen. There was no malice in my heart or in my son’s heart that day,” he said.
Travis McMichael declined to address the court, but his attorney, Amy Lee Copeland, said her client had no criminal record before Arbery’s murder and had served in the US Coast Guard. He said a lighter sentence would be more consistent with what similarly charged defendants have received in other cases, noting that the officer who killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, Derek Chauvin, received 21 years in prison for violating human rights. Floyd’s civilians, although he was not charged. with targeting Floyd because of his race.
Arbery’s murder became part of a larger national reckoning over racial injustice and the killings of unarmed black people, including Floyd and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. Those two cases also resulted in federal charges being filed by the US Department of Justice.
“The evidence we presented at trial demonstrated … what so many people felt in their hearts when they saw the video of Ahmaud’s tragic and unnecessary death: This would never have happened if he had been white,” prosecutor Christopher Perras told Travis. McMichael. he was sentenced.
The McMichaels were among three defendants convicted in February on federal hate crime charges. Bryan had a sentencing hearing scheduled for Monday.
A state Superior Court judge imposed life sentences on the three men in January for Arbery’s murder, and both McMichaels were denied any chance of parole.
All three defendants have remained jailed in coastal Glynn County, in the custody of US Marshals, while awaiting sentencing after their federal convictions in January.
Because they were first charged and convicted of murder in state court, the protocol would turn them over to the Georgia Department of Corrections to serve life in state prison.
In court filings last week, both Travis and Greg McMichael asked the judge to divert them to a federal prison, saying they will not be safe in a Georgia prison system that is the subject of a US Justice Department investigation. Focused on violence between inmates.
Copeland said during Monday’s hearing of Travis McMichael that his client has received hundreds of threats that he will be killed as soon as he arrives at the state prison and that his photo has been circulated there on illegal phones.
“I am concerned, Your Honor, that my client is effectively facing a back-door death penalty,” he said, adding that “retribution and revenge” were not sentencing factors, even for a defendant who is “publicly reviled.” “.
Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., said Travis McMichael had shown no mercy to his son and deserved to “rot” in state prison.
“You killed him because he was a black man and you hate black people,” he said. “You deserve no mercy.”
Wood said she did not have the authority to order the state to relinquish custody of Travis McMichael to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, but was unwilling to do so in his case, either. She also refused to keep Greg McMichael in federal custody.
During the February hate crimes trial, prosecutors bolstered their case that Arbery’s murder was racially motivated by showing the jury approximately two dozen text messages and social media posts in which Travis McMichael and Bryan they used racist slurs and made derogatory comments about blacks.
Defense attorneys for the three men argued that the McMichaels and Bryans did not go after Arbery because of his race, but rather acted on a serious, if mistaken, suspicion that Arbery had committed crimes in their neighborhood.