A verdict has been reached in the federal hate crimes trial of three men convicted of m’ur’de’ring Ahmaud Arbery. The verdict is expected to be announced in court shortly. Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were all convicted of murder and other charges in November.
Arbery was shot and k’ill’ed in Brunswick, Georgia, in February 2020. Cellphone video of the incident showed the McMichaels chasing Arbery as he jogged through the neighborhood. The two men cornered the 25-year-old with their pickup truck before Travis McMichael shot Arbery with a shotgun. Bryan helped chase Arbery and recorded the shooting on his cellphone.
The incident sparked national outrage, as did the fact that the three suspects were not arrested until two months after Arbery’s death.
In closing arguments Monday, the prosecution told the jury that the three defendants were driven by “racial assumptions, racial resentment and racial anger.” Defense lawyers argued that the pursuit of Arbery was not racially motivated, but a result of their belief he was involved in criminal activity.
At their state trial last fall, Travis McMichael was convicted of the highest count, malice murder, and all three were convicted of felony murder and other charges. The McMichaels were sentenced in January to a minimum of life in prison, while Bryan has the possibility of parole in 30 years.
The three men were also charged with federal hate crimes, which included using force and threats of force because of Arbery’s race to intimidate and interfere with his right to use a public street.
Before the beginning of their second trial, the McMichaels tried to enter a plea deal, which would have allowed them to serve time in federal rather than state prison. However, the judge rejected the deal after Arbery’s parents opposed it, prompting the McMichaels to withdraw their pleas and sending the case to trial.
During the trial, their defense attorney said they did not commit a hate crime, arguing they did not target Arbery because he was Black but simply used their authority to chase him because they suspected he was committing crimes in the neighborhood.
However, an FBI witness testified in court last week that records from Travis McMichael’s and Bryan’s phones revealed the repeated use of racial slurs. Travis McMichael also allegedly advocated violence against Black people, while Bryan exchanged racist messages on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Gregory McMichael’s phone was encrypted, but the witness alleged that he posted a meme on Facebook in 2016 saying White Irish slaves were treated worse than any race in the U.S. but that the Irish aren’t asking for handouts. Their defense attorneys argued such comments were not proof of a hate crime.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told “CBS Mornings” in January that she rejected the idea of plea deal because she wanted the men to stand trial for hate crimes.
“I think that the federal charges are just as important as the state charges and I think that they need to stand trial for those charges as well,” Cooper-Jones said.
“Ahmaud is a kid you cannot replace,” his father, Marcus Arbery, said outside the courthouse in January. “He was killed racially and we want 100% justice, not no half justice.”