Life sentence for man who shot Ahmaud Arbery for hate crime


The white man who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery after chasing the 25-year-old black man in a Georgia neighborhood was sentenced Monday to life in prison for committing a federal hate crime.

Travis McMichael was sentenced by US District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in the port city of Brunswick. His punishment is largely symbolic, as McMichael was sentenced earlier this year to life in prison without parole in Georgia state court for Arbery’s murder.

Wood said 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 sentencing, he heard from members of Arbery’s family. Her mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said that every day she feels every shot that was fired at her son.

“It’s so unfair, so unfair, so unfair that he was killed when he wasn’t even committing a crime,” he said.

McMichael declined to address the court, but his attorney, Amy Copeland, said her client had no criminal record prior to the Arbery murder charges and had served in the US Coast Guard. She asked for a more lenient sentence.

McMichael was one of three defendants convicted in February on federal hate crime charges. His father, Greg McMichael, and his neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan had sentencing hearings scheduled for Monday.

The McMichaels armed themselves with weapons and used a pickup truck to chase Arbery after he ran past their home on February 23, 2020. Bryan joined the chase in his own pickup truck and recorded cellphone video of McMichael shooting Arbery with a shotgun as Arbery threw punches. and grabbed the gun.

The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery of being a thief. Investigators determined that he was unarmed and had committed no crime.

Arbery’s murder became part of a larger national reckoning over racial injustice and the killings of unarmed black people, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. Those two cases also resulted in the Justice Department filing federal charges.

Wood scheduled back-to-back hearings Monday to individually sentence each of the defendants, starting with Travis McMichael, who killed Arbery with a shotgun after a street chase started by his father and accompanied by a neighbor, who is also white.

Greg McMichael and Bryan also face possible life sentences after a jury convicted them in February of federal hate crimes and concluded they violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because of his race. All three men were also convicted of attempted kidnapping, and the McMichaels face additional penalties for using firearms to commit a violent crime.

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 a court filing 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 family insisted that Travis McMichael serve his sentence in state prison. His father, Marcus Arbery Sr., said Travis McMichael had shown no mercy to his son and deserved to “rot in state prison.”

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.

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.

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