GEORGIA — Months after being sentenced to life in prison for murder, the three white men who stalked and killed Ahmaud Arbery in a Georgia neighborhood faced a second round of criminal penalties Monday on federal hate crime charges involved in the deadly pursuit of the 25-year-old were committed Black man.
US District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood scheduled successive hearings to try each of the defendants individually, beginning with Travis McMichael, who charged Arbery with a shotgun after his father-initiated street chase, which was joined by a neighbor killed.
Arbery’s killing on February 23, 2020 became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice and the killings of unarmed black people, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. These two cases also led to federal lawsuits being filed by the Justice Department.
When they return to court in Georgia on Monday, McMichael, his father Greg McMichael and his neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan face possible life sentences after a jury convicted them of federal hate crimes in February and concluded they killed Arbery’s Violating civil rights and targeting him because of his race. All three men were also found guilty of attempted kidnapping, and the McMichaels face additional penalties for using firearms to commit a violent crime.
A Supreme Court judge in January handed down life sentences to all three men for Arbery’s murder, with both McMichaels denied any chance of parole. Federal life sentences “give you backing in the event an appeals court decides there was an error in the course of the state process,” said Michael Moore, an Atlanta attorney and former US attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.
All three defendants remain in the Coastal District of Glynn County, in the custody of US Marshals, while awaiting sentencing following their federal conviction in January.
Because they were first tried and convicted of murder by a state court, protocol should have turned them over to the Georgia Department of Corrections to serve their life sentences in a state prison.
In a court filing last week, both Travis and Greg McMichael asked the judge to reroute them to a federal prison instead, saying they are in a Georgia prison system that is the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation focused on inter-inmate violence , not sure .
Arbery’s family has insisted that the McMichaels and Bryan should serve their sentences in a state prison, arguing that a federal prison wouldn’t be as harsh. His parents protested vigorously before the federal trial when both McMichaels sought a plea deal that would have included a request for transfer to a federal prison. The judge eventually rejected the agreement.
A federal judge has no authority to order the state to relinquish its legal custody of inmates to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said Ed Tarver, an Augusta attorney and former US attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. He said the judge could request that the state corrections agency transfer the accused to a federal prison.
The McMichaels armed themselves with guns and jumped into a truck to chase Arbery after they saw him walking past their home outside the port city of Brunswick on February 23, 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own truck and helped cut off Arbery’s escape. He also captured cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range as Arbery threw punches and reached for the shotgun.
The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery had stolen from a nearby house under construction. However, authorities later concluded that he was unarmed and had not committed any crimes. Arbery’s family has long insisted that he only jogged.
Still, more than two months passed before charges were filed in Arbery’s death. The McMichaels and Bryan were only arrested after graphic video of the shooting was leaked online and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local police.
During the February hate crime trial, prosecutors bolstered their case that Arbery’s murder was racially motivated by showing the jury about two dozen text messages and social media posts in which Travis McMichael and Bryan used racial slurs and made derogatory comments about black people . One woman testified to hearing an angry tirade from Greg McMichael in 2015, in which he said: “All these black people are nothing but trouble.”
The three men’s defense attorneys argued that the McMichaels and Bryan were not pursuing Arbery because of his race but were acting on a serious – albeit erroneous – suspicion that Arbery had committed crimes in their neighborhood.
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https://abc13.com/ahmaud-arbery-murder-georgia-shooting-death/12108817/ Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery face federal hate crimes