The three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery will soon be sentenced in a federal hate crimes trial that took seven days to complete after a jury began deliberations following closing arguments on Monday. Ahmaud Arbery’s killers–Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan–will soon learn their fates after a jury reaches a decision.
“There’s a big difference between being vigilant and being a vigilante,” Department of Justice’s attorney Christopher Perras said at the beginning of his closing statement.
All three men were found guilty in January for the 2020 killing of Arbery, who was jogging through a neighborhood when he was cornered by the three men, shot and killed.
Killers of Arbery face federal sentencing after already receiving life sentences in state court
The McMichaels are serving a life in prison without the possibility of parole sentence, while Bryan is serving life in prison with the possibility of parole. Still, the Arbery family felt it was important to proceed with the hate crimes case.
“They killed him because he was a Black man,” Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, told reporters outside the Glynn County courthouse.
Evidence of the racist past of Ahmaud Arbery’s three killers were on full display during the federal trial. Text conversations filled with racist epitaphs were shown to the jury. They painted a picture of the kind of men that they were.
“This wasn’t about trespassing,” Perras added. “It wasn’t about neighborhood crime. It was about race. Racial assumptions. Racial resentment and racial anger.”
Messages from the gunman, Travis McMichael, were shown with him saying “zero n*ggers work with me,” describing his workplace. Trial evidence showed him repeatedly using racial slurs and sharing memes and online videos that did the same.
Greg McMichael was quoted saying. “All those Blacks are nothing but trouble. I wish they would all die.”
Four days before the shooting, Bryan was heard complaining about his daughter dating a Black man.
“She has her a n*gger now,” he said, according to trial evidence.
Attempted Plea Deal
Just last week, both McMichaels attempted to strike a plea deal with the prosecution that would’ve allowed them to forego the federal trial.
In exchange for a guilty plea to federal hate crimes, Ahmaud Arbery’s killers would’ve served the first 30 years of their life sentences in federal prison, as opposed to state prison.
The McMichaels would’ve been transferred back to state prison after 30 years in federal custody under the plea deal. The deal would’ve required the McMichael’s to admit to racist motives and forfeit the right to appeal their federal sentence.
Arbery’s parents argued that conditions in federal prison would not be as harsh as those in Georgia’s state prison. She rejected the plea deal.
“Please listen to me,” Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones told Judge Wood. “Granting these men their preferred conditions of confinement would defeat me. It gives them one last chance to spit in my face after murdering my son.”
In a pretrial hearing, Judge Wood said she was not comfortable with the sentencing guidelines and rejected the plea deal, allowing the case to go to trial.
Both McMichaels withdrew their guilty pleas at the pretrial hearing.