Jogging through a neighborhood outside Brunswick in southern Georgia, two White men saw Arbery, who was Black, and chased after him, telling authorities later they believed he was the same person suspected previously of trespassing at a nearby home under construction.
Two years after his death, his family says justice has been delivered after three men convicted in his murder were found guilty in federal court Tuesday for having done so out of racial animus.
“This hate crime trial actually showed the world what was going on in the minds of the murderers who killed Ahmaud, their state of mind, what type of people they really were,” Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday.

The White men — Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael, along with neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, who is also White — each were convicted on a hate crime charge of interference of rights in addition to attempted kidnapping and other charges.

Prosecutors in the federal trial homed in on testimony detailing how all three defendants spoke privately and publicly about Black people using inflammatory and derogatory language, including racial slurs.

During closing rebuttal arguments this week, prosecutors emphasized in their argument that Arbery was killed because he was Black.

“The three defendants did not see 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery as a fellow human being,” Assistant US Attorney Tara Lyons said, calling into question a perceived lack of remorse from the defendants after the shooting.

The McMichaels claimed they pursued Arbery in their vehicle to stop him for police. Travis McMichael, who shot Arbery, said he acted in self-defense as the two wrestled over McMichael’s shotgun. Yet prosecutors also argued the defendants falsely told police Arbery had been caught breaking into houses, demonstrating a willingness to try to justify their actions.
The men were convicted in November in state court on murder charges, with the McMichaels getting life in prison without parole. Bryan, who trailed the McMichaels during their chase of Arbery and recorded video of the shooting, was given a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

For the federal convictions, the three men now also could get up to life in prison and steep fines. Sentencing will be scheduled after presentencing reports are filed, Judge Lisa Godbey Wood said in court.

The family of Ahmaud Arbery and attorneys raise their arms in victory Tuesday outside the federal courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, after all three men involved in his killing were found guilty of hate crimes.

Family critical of earlier plea deal

Following the guilty verdicts Tuesday, Cooper-Jones thanked the Department of Justice for its work but chastised prosecutors for a proposed plea deal in January.

Cooper-Jones spoke to DOJ prosecutors and “begged them” to not take the plea deal in the case, she said.

“What we got today, we wouldn’t have gotten today if it was not for the fight that the family put up,” Cooper-Jones said. “What the (Department of Justice) did today, they were made to do today.”

Ahmaud Arbery was killed doing what he loved, and a south Georgia community demands justice

Travis McMichael had agreed to plead guilty to a single hate crime charge — interference with rights — in exchange for prosecutors recommending he serve 30 years in federal prison. After completing the federal sentence, he would’ve been returned to Georgia to finish his sentence of life in prison without parole.

But Wood said she was not comfortable with the sentencing guidelines and rejected the deal. Gregory McMichael withdrew his plea agreement after Travis McMichael’s deal failed, and the three defendants entered pleas of not guilty before trial.

The Justice Department said at the time that the court’s decision would be respected, according to Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, but added in a statement that prosecutors “entered the plea agreement only after the victims’ attorneys informed me that the family was not opposed to it.”

In addition to the federal and state sentences faced by the McMichaels and Bryan, attorney Ben Crump, on behalf of the Arbery family, said they plan to bring a civil suit once the criminal proceedings are over.

CNN’s Mike Hayes, Jason Hanna, Pamela Kirkland, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Angela Barajas, Melissa Alonso and Gregory Lemos contributed to this report.

Source link