The white man who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery after chasing a 25-year-old black man in his Georgia neighborhood was sentenced to life in prison on Monday for committing a federal hate crime.
Wood said McMichael received a “fair trial”.
“And it’s not lost on the court that Ahmad Arbery was the kind of trial he didn’t get before he was shot,” the judge said.
McMichael was one of three defendants convicted of federal hate crime charges in February. His father, Greg McMichael, and his neighbor William “Rody” Bryan had sentencing hearings scheduled for late Monday.
McMichaels armed himself with a gun and used a pickup truck to pursue Arbery after he passed his home on February 23, 2020. Brian joins the chase in his truck and records a cell phone video of McMichael blowing up Arbery with a shotgun.
The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery of the robbery. Investigators determined that he was unarmed and that he had committed no crime.
Arbery’s murder on February 23, 2020 became part of a larger national reckoning over racial injustice and the killing of unarmed black people, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. These two cases also resulted in the Department of Justice filing charges with the federal government.
Wood scheduled back-to-back hearings on Monday to hand down sentences to each defendant individually. He killed Arbery.
Greg McMichael and Brian conclude that they violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because of his race, and could face life in prison after being convicted of a federal hate crime in February. All three men were also found guilty of attempted kidnapping, and McMichaels faces additional penalties for committing a violent crime using a firearm.
A state high court judge sentenced all three men in Arbery’s murder to life in prison in January.
All three defendants remained incarcerated in coastal Glynn County under the custody of U.S. Marshals while awaiting sentencing after the federal government convicted them in January.
They were first indicted in state court and convicted of murder, so the protocol ordered them to be turned over to the Georgia Department of Corrections to serve life in state prison.
In court filings last week, Travis and Greg McMichael told judges they were unsafe in Georgia’s prison system, the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation focused on inmate violence. He asked for them to be converted to federal prisons instead.
Arbery’s family insists that McMichaels and Brian should serve their sentences in state prison, and that federal prison is less harsh. , strongly opposed when Mr. and Mrs. McMichael sought a plea bargain that included a request to transfer them to federal prison.
Ed Tarver, an Augusta attorney and former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, said federal judges have the power to order states to relinquish lawful custody of inmates to the Federal Prison Service. Said he didn’t have one. He said the judge could require that the state’s Department of Corrections extradite the defendant to federal prison.
After the McMichael couple spotted Arbery running in front of their home outside the port city of Brunswick on February 23, 2020, they armed themselves with guns and jumped into a truck to chase Arbery. He also recorded cell phone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range as Arbery threw a punch and grabbed a shotgun.
The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery had been stealing from a house under construction nearby. Arbery’s family has claimed that Arbery was simply jogging.
Still, more than two months passed before an indictment was filed in Arbery’s death. McMichaels and Brian were arrested after graphic videos of the shootings surfaced online and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local police.
During a hate crime trial in February, prosecutors sent jurors about 20 text messages and social media posts in which Travis McMichael and Brian used racist slurs and made derogatory comments about black people. A woman testified she heard an angry rant from Greg McMichael in 2015.
Three defense attorneys argued that McMichaels and Brian did not pursue Arbery on grounds of race, but that they acted on serious suspicion that Arbery had committed a crime in the neighborhood.