Men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery get life in prison; no parole for father, son

Crime

“They chose to target my son because they did not want him in their community.”

Travis McMichael, left, speaks with his attorney Bob Rubin, right, during the sentencing of his and his father Greg McMichael and neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, on January 7, 2022 in Brunswick, Georgia.
Stephen B. Morton-Pool / Getty Images

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) – Three white men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced to life in prison on Friday, where a judge denied any chance of parole for the father and son who armed themselves and initiated the deadly persecution of the 25-year-old black man.

Murder carries a mandatory life sentence in prison under Georgia law, unless prosecutors seek the death penalty, which they deselected for Arbery’s killings. For Supreme Court Justice Timothy Walmsley, the main decision was whether to give Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, a possible chance of obtaining parole.

The judge ordered both McMichaels to serve life without parole. Bryan was given a chance for parole, but must first serve at least 30 years in prison.

Arbery’s family asked a judge not to show leniency on Friday in sentencing three men.

During the sentencing, Arbery’s sister remembered her brother’s humor and described him as a positive thinker with a great personality. She told the judge that her brother had dark skin “glistening in sunlight”, thick, curly hair and an athletic build, factors that made him a target for the men who pursued him.

“These are the qualities that made these men assume that Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal and hunt them down with drawn weapons. To me, these qualities reflect a young man full of life and energy who resembled me and the people I loved. , ”Said Jasmine Arbery.

Arbery’s mother asked for the maximum punishment, saying she suffered a personal, intense loss, exacerbated by a lawsuit in which the men’s defense was that Arbery made bad choices that led to his death.

“This was not a case of false identity or false fact. They chose to target my son because they did not want him in their community. They chose to treat him differently than other people who often visited their community,” said Wanda Cooper -Jones. “And when they could not frighten or frighten him enough, they killed him.”

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked the judge for life without parole for Travis and Greg McMichael and the possibility of parole for Bryan. But she said everyone deserved the mandatory life sentence for showing “no empathy for the captured and terrified Ahmaud Arbery.”

When McMichaels still thought they were doing nothing wrong, Dunikoski revealed on Friday that Greg McMichael gave Bryan’s cell phone video of the shooting to a lawyer who leaked it.

“He believed it would acquit him,” the prosecutor said.

For Travis McMichael, 35, the possibility of parole could mean hope for release from prison in the ’60s, said Robert Rubin, one of his defense attorneys. He claimed that Travis McMichael first opened fire after “Mr. Arbery came towards him and grabbed the gun.” But Rubin also acknowledged that his client’s decisions to arm himself and chase Arbery were “ruthless” and “thoughtless.”

“They are not evidence of a soul so black that it deserves to spend the rest of its life in prison,” Rubin said. “This was not a planned assassination. This was a gunfight that led to Mr Arbery’s death.”

Greg McMichael recently turned 66, and Bryan is 52, increasing the chances that they would spend the rest of their lives in prison, even if given a chance of parole.

Greg McMichael’s attorney, Laura Hogue, said her client has health issues and acknowledged he will probably never get out of jail. But he said giving him a chance at parole would show he had no intention of Arbery dying, and he never drew his gun until his son fired his shotgun.

“Greg McMichael did not leave his home that day in hopes of killing,” Hogue told the judge. “He did not see his son fire that shotgun with anything but fear and sadness. What this jury found was that this was an unintentional act.”

Bryan’s lawyer said he should get a chance for parole because he showed remorse and cooperated with police and handed over the cell phone video of the shooting to help them get to the truth.

“Mr. Bryan is not the one who brought a gun,” Kevin Gough said. “He was unarmed. And I think that reflects his intentions. “

The guilty verdicts against the men handed down the day before Thanksgiving led to a victory celebration outside the Glynn County courthouse for those who saw Arbery’s death as part of a larger national inventory of racial injustice.

All three men were also convicted of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt at false imprisonment. The maximum prison sentences for these conditions range from five to 20 years. The judge would likely allow these additional sentences to be served concurrently with life sentences for murder.

McMichaels grabbed weapons and jumped in a pickup truck to chase the 25-year-old Arbery after seeing him run into their neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick, Georgia on February 23, 2020. Bryan participated in the pursuit in his own truck and recorded cell phone video of Travis McMichael, who fires impending shotgun blasts into the Arbery as he throws blows and grabs for the weapon.

The killing went largely unnoticed until two months later, when the graphic video was leaked online and sparked a national outcry. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local police and soon arrested all three men.

Defense attorneys have said they plan to appeal the verdicts. They have 30 days after the sentencing to file them.

Next month, McMichaels and Bryan are facing another lawsuit, this time in U.S. District Court on federal charges of hate crimes. A judge has set the jury selection to begin on February 7th. Prosecutors will allege that the three men violated Arbery’s civil rights and attacked him because he was black.

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