September 24, 2022

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McMichaels sentenced to life terms, William ‘Roddie’ Bryan gets 35 years for federal hate crime convictions in Ahmaud Arbery’s killing

5 min read

William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., one of the three White men convicted in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, was sentenced to 35 years Monday after his federal convictions this year on interference with rights — a hate crime — along with attempted kidnapping.

Bryan’s sentencing in a federal courtroom in Georgia came soon after his neighbors, father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, were sentenced to life plus seven years and 10 years, respectively, on weapons charges.

All three already are serving life sentences for their convictions in state court on a series of charges related to the February 2020 killing of the 25-year-old Black man, including felony murder.

[Previous story, published at 3:23 p.m. ET]

Gregory and Travis McMichael, the White father and son convicted in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, were sentenced Monday to life in prison after their federal convictions this year on interference with rights — a hate crime — along with attempted kidnapping and weapon use charges.

Their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., the third man involved in Arbery’s killing, is set to be sentenced in federal court later Monday afternoon. All three already are serving life sentences for their convictions in state court on a series of charges related to the killing of the 25-year-old Black man, including felony murder.

“My son was shot not one time, not two times, but three times,” Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones said before Travis McMichael’s sentence was handed down. She and other members of Arbery’s family asked the judge to give Travis McMichael the maximum possible sentence under federal guidelines.

One of Ahmaud Arbery's killers fears being slain in a Georgia state prison, court document says

“Your honor,” she said, “I feel every shot that was fired every day.”

Travis McMichael, his father and Bryan were found guilty of the federal charges in February, with the jury accepting prosecutors’ argument the defendants acted out of racial animus toward Arbery. Travis McMichael, who fatally shot Arbery, was also found guilty of using and carrying a Remington shotgun while his father, Gregory McMichael was found guilty of using and carrying a .357 Magnum revolver.  

Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael were also sentenced Monday to 20 years on the attempted kidnapping charges, to be served concurrently with their state sentences, US District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood ruled Monday.

Travis McMichael also received an additional 10 years for the weapons charge to be served consecutively, while Gregory McMichael received an additional seven years on the weapons charge, which will also be served consecutively. The judge ruled both McMichaels did not have the funds to pay a fine.

The sentencings of both McMichaels were preceded by emotional testimony from Arbery’s family, which told the court about how his killing had impacted them and changed their family.

They also condemned the actions of both men, with Cooper-Jones testifying to her confusion when she learned Gregory McMichael was with Travis he killed Arbery. At first, she said, she questioned whether that could be true.

“I struggled to come to the realization that a father would actually accompany his son to take a life,” she said. “I didn’t want to believe that, because me as a mother, I could never accompany my son to do any type of crime.”

Before Gregory McMichael was sentenced, he acknowledged Arbery’s family, who were in court, saying the “loss that you’ve endured is beyond description. There’s no words for it.”

“I’m sure that my words mean little to you, but I wanted to assure you I never wanted any of this to happen. There was no malice in my heart or my son’s heart that day,” he said.

Gregory McMichael also apologized to his wife and his son, saying, “I should have never put him in that situation.”

“Finally, I pray that God’s peace will come to the Arbery family and this community,” Gregory McMichael said.

Speaking to reporters Monday afternoon, Cooper-Jones said she accepted Gregory McMichael’s apology.

“Being the person that I am, I think now he realizes he made some horrible decisions back in February (2020),” she said. “Unfortunately, his apology doesn’t bring back my son, but I do accept the apology.”

Judge denies McMichaels’ requests to remain in federal custody

Arbery’s killing, months before the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, was in some ways a harbinger of the nationwide protests that erupted that summer as demonstrators decried how people of color sometimes are treated by law enforcement.

Travis McMichael’s attorney Amy Lee Copeland argued Monday for her client to remain in federal custody and to serve out his prison term with the Federal Bureau of Prisons rather than the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Travis McMichael fears for his life in a state prison, Copeland said, telling the court his client had received “hundreds” of threats. Forcing him to serve the time in a Georgia state prison would essentially amount to a “backdoor death penalty” that could leave McMichael vulnerable to “vigilante justice,” she argued, acknowledging the “rich irony.”

Gregory McMichael’s attorney made a similar request, but argued the 66-year-old should be kept in federal custody for his health.

Prosecutors opposed both requests. In cases in which a defendant faces charges in separate jurisdictions, they argued, the one that issues its sentence first takes precedence.

The judge apparently agreed and denied the requests, telling Travis McMichael she had “neither the authority nor the inclination” to override the rules.

To make their case, federal prosecutors focused on how each defendant had spoken about Black people in public and in private, using inflammatory, derogatory and racist language.

One of Ahmaud Arbery's killers had 16 phone calls with DA before arrest, court filings say
Prosecutors and Arbery’s family had said he was out for a jog — a common pastime for the former high school football player — on February 23, 2020, when the defendants chased and killed him in their neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia.

Defense attorneys argued the McMichaels pursued Arbery in a pickup truck through neighborhood streets to stop him for police, believing he matched the description of someone captured in footage recorded at a home under construction. Prosecutors acknowledged Arbery had entered the home in the past, but he never took anything.

The defense also argued Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense as they wrestled over McMichael’s shotgun. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own truck after seeing the McMichaels follow Arbery in their pickup as he ran. Bryan recorded video of the shooting.

Two prosecutors initially instructed Glynn County police not to make arrests, and the defendants weren’t arrested for more than two months — and only after Bryan’s video of the killing surfaced, sparking the nationwide outcry.

CNN’s Jason Hanna and Travis Caldwell contributed to this report.

2022-08-08 14:18:47

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