Savannah, Ga. , Months after being sentenced to life in prison for murder, three white men who chased and killed Ahmed Arbery in a Georgia neighborhood were sentenced Monday for federal hate crimes committed in the fatal pursuit of the 25-year-old. Facing the second round. Black Man.
US District Court Judge Lisa Godbe Wood scheduled back-to-back hearings to sentence each defendant individually, beginning with Travis McMichael, who was chased down a street started by his father and killed by a neighbor. After joining, Arbery was shot with a shotgun.
Arbery’s murder on February 23, 2020, became part of a larger national countdown on 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 federal charges by the Justice Department.
When they return to court Monday in Georgia, McMichael, his father Greg McMichael and neighbor William “Roddy” Bryan face possible life sentences after a jury convicted them of federal hate crimes in February. ordained, concluding that they violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because of his race. All three men were also found guilty of attempted kidnapping, and the McMichaels faced additional penalties for using firearms to commit a violent crime.
Whatever punishment they receive in federal court may ultimately prove more symbolic than anything else. A state Superior Court judge handed down life sentences for all three men for Arbery’s murder in January, with both McMichaels denying any chance of parole.
While awaiting sentencing following a federal sentencing in January, all three defendants remained in jail in coastal Glynn County in the custody of a US marshal.
Because he was first charged with murder and convicted in state court, protocol would have changed him to serve his life sentence in state prison at Georgia’s Department of Corrections.
In a court filing last week, both Travis and Greg McMichael asked the judge to convert them to a federal prison, saying they would not be safe in the Georgia prison system that has been under investigation by the US Department of Justice focused on violence among inmates. subject to. ,
Arbery’s family insists the McMichaels and Brian should serve his sentence in state prison, arguing that a federal penitentiary would not be as difficult. His parents protested forcefully before the federal trial when both McMichaels sought a plea deal that would have included a request to transfer him to federal prison. The judge rejected the plea agreement.
Ed Tarver, Augusta’s attorney and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, said a federal judge does not have the authority to order the state to release its legal custody of prisoners at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. He said judges can request that the state corrections agency turn the defendants into federal prison.
The McMichaels armed themselves with guns and jumped into a truck to chase Arbery as he ran outside his home outside the port city of Brunswick on February 23, 2020. Brian joins the chase in his truck, which helps Arbery escape. He also recorded a cellphone video of Arbery shooting Travis McMichael up close, as Arbery threw punches and grabbed the shotgun.
The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was stealing from a nearby under-construction home. But officials later concluded that he was unarmed and had not committed any crime. Arbery’s family has long insisted that he was only jogging.
Still, more than two months passed before any charges were filed in Arbery’s death. The McMichaels and Brian were arrested only after a graphic video of the shooting was leaked online, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local police.
During February’s hate crimes trial, prosecutors strengthened their case by showing the jury nearly two dozen text messages and social media posts that Arbery’s murder was motivated by racism in which Travis McMichael and Brian used racist slurs and black people. made derogatory remarks about. One woman testified to hear an angry rant from Greg McMichael in 2015 in which she said: “They are nothing but all black trouble.”
Defense lawyers for the three men argued that the McMichaels and Brian did not pursue Arbery because of their race, but acted on an earnest – though erroneous – suspicion that Arbery had committed crimes in their neighborhood.