Ahmaud Arbery murder: All three killers found guilty in federal hate crimes trial

A picture of Ahmaud Arbery is on display outside the Glynn County Courthouse in November (REUTERS)
A picture of Ahmaud Arbery is on display outside the Glynn County Courthouse in November (REUTERS)

The three white men who murdered Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery have been found guilty of all charges in their federal hate crimes trial.

Gregory McMichael, 66, Travis McMichael, 36, and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., 52, were convicted on all counts in federal court in Georgia on Tuesday morning, with a jury finding that they were motivated by race when they pursued and murdered the Black jogger.

All three men were found guilty of one count of interfering with Arbery’s civil rights to use a public street because of his race and one count of attempted kidnapping.

The McMichael father and son duo were also convicted of one count each of using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm and Travis McMichael was also convicted of one count of discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

The charges come with a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The hate crimes trial centred around the allegation that the three white men targeted Arbery because of his race when they chased the unarmed Black jogger in their pickup trucks and shot him dead in the street in broad daylight back in February 2020.

All three are already serving life sentences after being found guilty of murder at their state trial back in November.

Deliberations in the federal trial began on Monday afternoon, following closing arguments earlier in the day where the prosecution said the three white men targeted the Black man because of “racial assumptions, racial resentment, and racial anger”.

“On February 23, 2020, the three defendants did not see 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery as a fellow human being,” the prosecutor said.

Jurors deliberated for just over two and a half hours on Monday before they were excused. They had resumed only briefly on Tuesday morning before telling the court a verdict had been reached.

The verdict came almost exactly two years to the day that Arbery was chased through a street in Brunswick, Georgia, and shot dead back on 23 February 2020.

During the trial, the court heard about the racist language used by all three defendants prior to Arbery’s murder as the prosecution attempted to show that race was the motivator for their actions that day.

Bryan referred to a Black man his daughter was dating as an “n-word” and “monkey” just days before he murdered the Black jogger, the court heard.

“[She] is dating a [n-word] now,” Bryan allegedly said in a message to a friend.

Travis McMichael, meanwhile, used racial slurs in a number of social media posts and messages to friends and referred to Black people as “animals, criminals, monkeys, sub-human savages”, according to prosecutors.

Gregory McMichael also allegedly told someone he knew while working as an investigator in the Glynn County District Attorney’s Office that “Blacks are nothing but trouble”, the prosecutor said.

The federal trial got underway after the judge denied a plea deal for the McMichaels, where they agreed to plead guilty to hate crimes charges and be sentenced to 30 years in prison in exchange for being moved to a federal prison.

The plea agreement was condemned by Arbery’s family who said they had made it clear they do not want his killers to be able to serve their sentences in a comfier facility. Federal prisons are notoriously more comfortable, better funded and safer.

Travis McMichael had changed his plea to guilty - admitting that he chased and killed the Black 25-year-old because of his race - and his father had agreed to do the same before US District Judge Lisa Godbey rejected the deal, saying she was not willing to be bound by the terms of the agreement.

Travis McMichael changed his plea back to not guilty, paving the way for the father and son duo to join Bryan at the federal trial.

The three white men chased Arbery through the Satilla Shores neighbourhood of Georgia in their pickup trucks before Travis McMichael shot him dead in the road back on 23 February 2020.

At their sentencing on state charges in January, Travis and Gregory McMichael were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole while Bryan was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, making him eligible for release after 30 years in prison.

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