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Today Judge Lisa Godbey Wood respected the wishes of the family and denied the plea agreement. Judge Wood stated she “was not willing to be bound to the 30-year federal prison sentence delineated in the agreement,” according to Reuters.
The upcoming federal trial will require prosecutors to prove the McMichaels violated Arbery’s constitutional rights, targeting him because he was Black.
As of last Sunday, according to court documents filed by U.S. Dept. of Justice, Travis and Greg McMichael could’ve serve their prison sentences in federal custody rather than a Georgia prison.
What’s the difference?
Federal prisons are far less populated, statistically much safer, and better funded than the average U.S. prison.
Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, has been vocal in her response since learning of it.
“I fought so hard to get these guys in the state prison,” she said. “I told them very, very adamantly that I wanted them to go to state prison and do their time. … Then I got up this morning and found out they had accepted this ridiculous plea.”
Lee Merritt, a family lawyer, tweeted a statement on her behalf. She states, “The DOJ has gone behind my back to offer the men who murdered my son a deal to make their time in prison easier to serve.”
She added, “I have been completely betrayed by the DOJ lawyers.”
Prior to McMichael’s trial scheduled for February 7, Merritt said their family is devastated by the agreement.
“In essence, they get to publicly brag about their hatred & then be rewarded by the federal government,” said Merritt in a tweet.
On Jan. 7, all three men were sentenced to life without possibility for parole, in addition to being indicted on federal hate crime charges.
Though the filing came as a surprise, the federal Crime Victims Act guarantees Cooper-Jones her “right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding involving a plea offer.”
The trial is set to begin Feb 7.