Jogging while black

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Three Georgia men sentenced to life in prison for Ahmaud Arbery murder

Author of the article:
Reuters
Reuters
Jonathan Allen
Publishing date:
Jan 07, 2022 • 13 hours ago • 4 minute read •
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Gregory McMichael sits during opening statements in the trial of William "Roddie" Bryan, Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael, charged with the February 2020 death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, at the Gwynn County Superior Court, in Brunswick, Georgia, U.S. November 5, 2021.
Gregory McMichael sits during opening statements in the trial of William "Roddie" Bryan, Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael, charged with the February 2020 death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, at the Gwynn County Superior Court, in Brunswick, Georgia, U.S. November 5, 2021. Photo by OCTAVIO JONES /REUTERS
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A Georgia judge sentenced Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael on Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for what he called the “chilling” 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man running through their mostly white neighbourhood in the southern U.S. state.
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Judge Timothy Walmsley also gave a life sentence to their neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan but ruled that he could seek parole after 30 years in prison, the minimum sentence allowed for murder under Georgia law.

Echoing comments made by Arbery’s anguished relatives earlier in the hearing at Glynn County Superior Court, the judge condemned the three men for what he described as their mistake of failing to see Arbery as just another neighbour.

He said he gave the McMichaels the harshest sentence available in part because of their “callous” words and actions captured on a cellphone video that sparked national outrage when it became public in the summer of 2020.
This combination of handout photos created on June 24, 2020 using booking photos released by the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia shows (from left) William Roderick Bryan, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael.
This combination of handout photos created on June 24, 2020 using booking photos released by the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia shows (from left) William Roderick Bryan, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael. Photo by Glynn County Sheriff's Office /AFP via Getty Images

“It was a chilling, truly disturbing scene,” the judge said of the frame in the video where McMichael begins to lift his shotgun at Arbery while the 25-year-old is about 20 feet away. “I kept coming back to the terror that must have been in the mind of the young man running through Satilla Shores.”
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In November, a jury found Gregory McMichael, 66, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbour Bryan, 52, guilty of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony.

The judge agreed with prosecutors and Arbery’s relatives that the three men, who are white, had “assumed the worst” about Arbery, who he said was “hunted down and shot, and he was killed because individuals here in this courtroom took the law into their own hands.”

Earlier, Arbery’s family told the court they believed that racial stereotyping led to the killing of the avid jogger, who grew up and still lived across the highway from the Satilla Shores neighbourhood where he died. Defence lawyers had pleaded leniency, saying none of the three men ever intended for Arbery to be killed, and that the maximum punishment should be reserved only for the “worst of the worst” offenders.
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Before the judge’s ruling, Jasmine Arbery addressed the court in a quavering voice to offer a poetic celebration of her younger brother’s Blackness, which she said was mistaken for something frightening by his attackers.

“He had dark skin that glistened in the sunlight like gold. He had curly hair; he would often like to twist it. Ahmaud had a broad nose and the colour of his eyes was filled with melanin,” she said. “These are the qualities that made these men assume Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal. To me, those qualities reflected a young man full of life and energy who looked like me and the people I love.”

JUDGE QUOTES ARBERY’S MOTHER

Linda Dunikoski, the lead prosecutor, had argued for the maximum sentence for just the two McMichaels for what she called “a demonstrated pattern of vigilantism.” Pointing to Gregory McMichael’s former work as an investigator in the local prosecutor’s office, she said father and son acted as if they were above the law.
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Defence lawyer Kevin Gough had argued for leniency for Bryan because he was the only one of the three who was unarmed when he pursued Arbery.

Attorneys for the three men have said they will appeal the convictions. The men also face a federal trial in February on hate-crime charges, accused of violating Arbery’s civil rights by attacking him because of his “race and colour.”

The state case hinged on whether the defendants, under a now-repealed Georgia law permitting citizen arrests, had a right to confront Arbery on a hunch he was fleeing after committing a crime. In the end the jury was not swayed by tearful testimony from Travis McMichael, the only defendant to take the stand, that he shot only in self-defence.

Arbery was jogging through the leafy Satilla Shores neighbourhood on the afternoon of Feb. 23 when the McMichaels decided to grab their guns, jump in a pickup truck and give chase.
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Bryan joined the chase in his own pickup truck after it passed his driveway, and pulled out his cellphone to record Travis McMichael firing a shotgun at Arbery at close range. Arbery had nothing on him besides his running clothes and sneakers.

The video fueled national protests against racism in the criminal justice system when it emerged months later and it became clear that none of the men involved had yet been arrested after a local prosecutor concluded the killing was justified.

“They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community,” Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, told the court on Friday. “When they couldn’t sufficiently scare him or intimidate him, they killed him.”

In his sentencing, the judge quoted the mother’s remarks, saying they struck him as “very true.”

“At minimum, Ahmaud Arbery should force us to consider expanding our definition of what a neighbour may be and how we treat them,” the judge said.
 

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In rare move, U.S. judge rejects plea agreement by Ahmaud Arbery's murderer
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Publishing date:Jan 31, 2022 • 11 hours ago • 4 minute read • Join the conversation
Defendant Travis McMichael speaks with his attorney Bob Rubin while they wait for the jury to return to the courtroom during the trial deliberations in the trial deliberations in the Glynn County Courthouse on Nov. 24, 2021 in Brunswick, Ga.
Defendant Travis McMichael speaks with his attorney Bob Rubin while they wait for the jury to return to the courtroom during the trial deliberations in the trial deliberations in the Glynn County Courthouse on Nov. 24, 2021 in Brunswick, Ga. PHOTO BY STEPHEN B. MORTON-POOL /Getty Images
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A U.S. judge in Georgia rejected plea agreements reached between federal prosecutors and two of the three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, saying she was not willing to be bound to the 30-year federal prison sentence set in the agreement.

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The unusual decision by U.S. District Judge Lisa Wood came after Travis McMichael, one of the three attackers due to face trial next week on federal hate-crime charges, admitted for the first time he had pursued the 25-year-old Black man because of his race.

The decision means the parties must either return to court with a more acceptable deal when the hearing resumes on Friday morning or prepare next week for trial.

McMichael had appeared in the U.S. District Court in Brunswick, Georgia, in an attempt to change his plea to guilty, admitting to a charge of using a gun in his attempt to apprehend Arbery because of his “race and colour,” resulting in Arbery’s death. He fired at Arbery three times at close range with his shotgun.

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His father, Gregory McMichael, had also been due to change his plea to guilty as part of an agreement at a subsequent hearing on Monday over the objections of Arbery’s relatives, who successfully begged Wood not to accept the deals.

The McMichaels have already faced trial at the state level when they were convicted of murder last November in a court in Brunswick alongside their neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan and sentenced to life in prison. The state judge ruled that only Bryan would ever be able to seek parole.

State prosecutors said the men “assumed the worst” about the Black man running through their neighbourhood, unfairly thinking he must have been fleeing some crime when they chased him down in pickup trucks before cornering and shooting him in February 2020.

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MOTHER’S APPEAL TO JUDGE

In rejecting the federal agreement, Wood acknowledged emotional testimony on Monday by Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, and other relatives who begged the judge not to accept the deal.

They said they were alarmed that prosecutors had agreed to recommend McMichael be transferred to a federal prison for 30 years before returning him to the custody of the Georgia prison system for the rest of his life. Federal prisons are generally perceived as less brutal environments than typical state prisons.

“Granting these men their preferred conditions of confinement will defeat me. It gives them one last chance to spit in my face after murdering my son,” Cooper-Jones told the court. “The state of Georgia already gave these men exactly what they deserve. Please leave it that way.”

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara Lyons said the government had repeatedly consulted with Arbery’s family, and that they had previously not opposed an agreement as the best way to ensure that the McMichaels would admit race played a role in their crimes and give up their right to appeal a federal conviction.

“I understand the anger, the pain and the struggle that the family is feeling with this resolution,” she said in asking the judge to accept the deal.

In a statement after the hearing, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said the Justice Department respected the court’s decision and that the agreements had been entered “only after the victims’ attorneys informed me that the family was not opposed to it.”

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Judges rarely reject plea agreements. Rejections can occur if judges believe the agreements do not adequately address the nature of the crimes, the rights of victims, or the interests of the public.

Wood said that under the plea agreement before her she would be bound to accept the 30-year federal sentence, and that she needed more information before she could decide if that was just.

“If I accept it, it locks me in to that sentence,” she said.

Federal judges on occasion reject a plea agreement when they disagree with prosecutors’ proposed sentence in order to avoid any surprises at the later sentencing hearing, according to Paul Applebaum, a criminal defense attorney in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“It’s just the right thing to do if she has a problem with it,” Applebaum said, adding that the two sides could continue negotiations for a different deal ahead of trial.

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Arbery’s killing sparked national outrage when cellphone video taken by Bryan of the shooting emerged months later and the public learned that local authorities had declined to arrest his pursuers.

Earlier in the hearing, Travis McMichael admitted he had shared racist sentiments in text messages and social media posts for many years.

“Defendant Travis McMichael did not belong to any hate groups and did not set out on February 23, 2020, to carry out an act of violence against an African-American person,” said the proposed plea agreement, which was read aloud in court. “But he had made assumptions about Ahmaud Arbery that he would not have made if Ahmaud Arbery had been white.”

McMichael admitted that in his messages he had associated Black skin “with criminality,” and that he had supported vigilante efforts to harm or kill Black people, “particularly those he saw as criminal.”

Prosecutors also called an FBI agent to the stand, who testified that a search of McMichael’s cellphone showed he frequently referred to Black people as “monkeys,” “savages” and another racist slur.

No notice was made of a plea agreement with Bryan, who is also due to stand trial on Feb. 7. Bryan’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.
 

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One of Ahmaud Arbery's 3 killers withdraws plea deal on hate-crimes charges
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Steve Gorman
Publishing date:Feb 03, 2022 • 4 hours ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation
This combination of handout photos created on June 24, 2020 using booking photos released by the Glynn County Sheriff's Office in Georgia shows (from left) William Roderick Bryan, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael.
This combination of handout photos created on June 24, 2020 using booking photos released by the Glynn County Sheriff's Office in Georgia shows (from left) William Roderick Bryan, Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael. PHOTO BY GLYNN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE /AFP
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One of two men whose plea bargain on federal hate-crimes charges in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery was rejected by a judge last week has decided to proceed to trial rather than seek a new deal with prosecutors, court documents showed on Thursday.

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Lawyers for Gregory McMichael and federal prosecutors filed a joint notice of withdrawal of McMichael’s plea agreement, saying the deal is “null and void” and that both sides were “ready for trial,” reaffirming his original plea of not guilty.

The case docket in U.S. District Court in Brunswick, Georgia, also showed that a change-of-plea hearing scheduled for McMichael on Friday had been cancelled.

McMichael, 66, and his son, Travis, 36, were both sentenced in state court last month to life in prison without parole for their convictions on murder and other charges in the February 2020 shotgun slaying of Arbery, 25.

A co-defendant, neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, was sentenced to life with eligibility for parole after 30 years. All three men are white.

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Arbery, who was Black, was shot to death by the younger McMichael after all three defendants had chased him down in pickup trucks as he jogged through the suburban neighbourhood they shared.

The jury rejected claims by the McMichaels’ lawyers that their clients were seeking to make a citizen’s arrest of Arbery, whom they suspected of criminal activity, and had acted in self-defense when they confronted him.

The father and son subsequently reached a deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for southern Georgia to plead guilty to federal hate-crimes charges and receive a 30-year sentence.

As part of the deal, prosecutors agreed to recommend that the defendants be transferred to a federal penitentiary for 30 years before being returned to the Georgia prison system, whose conditions are widely considered to harsher than those of a federal prison.

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But after vehement objections from Arbery’s mother, U.S. District Judge Lisa Wood last week took the rare step of rejecting the terms of the plea agreement at a hearing for the younger McMichael, though not before he admitted for the first time that he had pursued Arbery because of his race.

Both McMichaels had been scheduled to return to court on Friday to formally re-enter guilty pleas. Court records indicated that only the son would appear for that hearing because the father had formally withdrawn his plea deal on Thursday.

It remained unclear whether Travis McMichael would seek a new plea agreement acceptable to the judge. There was no indication in court whether the third defendant, Bryan, was considering a plea bargain.
 

taxslave

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I hope they win! That way, they'll only serve life without parole instead of. . . life without parole!
Out of curiosity, would this be a normal sentence for the crime in the US? Life in jail in Canada usually means 20 years or less with time off for good behaviour and eligible for parole after 10 years. The good behaviour part is front loaded, in that it is automatic and you lose portions of it for bad behaviour.
 

Tecumsehsbones

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Out of curiosity, would this be a normal sentence for the crime in the US? Life in jail in Canada usually means 20 years or less with time off for good behaviour and eligible for parole after 10 years. The good behaviour part is front loaded, in that it is automatic and you lose portions of it for bad behaviour.
Yep. According to Georgia law, they were eligible for the death penalty because the murder was committed during the commission of aggravated battery.
 
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spaminator

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Ahmaud Arbery's murderers used litany of racist slurs, hate-crimes trial hears
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Rich Mckay and Brad Brooks
Publishing date:Feb 14, 2022 • 10 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
A woman holds a sign outside the Glynn County Courthouse after the jury reached a guilty verdict in the trial of William "Roddie" Bryan, Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael, charged with the February 2020 death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, in Brunswick, Georgia, U.S., November 24, 2021.
A woman holds a sign outside the Glynn County Courthouse after the jury reached a guilty verdict in the trial of William "Roddie" Bryan, Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael, charged with the February 2020 death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, in Brunswick, Georgia, U.S., November 24, 2021. PHOTO BY MARCO BELLO /REUTERS
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BRUNSWICK — A federal prosecutor in Georgia said on Monday that three white men on trial for hate crimes in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, had a long history of using racial epithets and undoubtedly killed him because of his race.

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Arbery did nothing to deserve his fate, Barbara Bernstein, deputy chief of the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, told the U.S. District Court in the coastal town of Brunswick in her opening statement.

Gregory McMichael, 66, his son Travis McMichael, 36, and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, were convicted last year of shooting dead Arbery after chasing him in pickup trucks through their mostly white neighborhood because they wrongly suspected he may have been guilty of a crime.

Unlike last year’s state trial, the federal hate-crimes trial will focus more squarely on the motive for the killing and whether the defendants targeted Arbery because he was Black, as the prosecution alleges.

Arbery’s killing was one of several murders of Black men and women, often at the hands of police, that helped spark recent racial justice protests around the world. The federal trial of Arbery’s killers is one of the first in which those who carried out a high-profile killing are facing a jury in a hate-crime trial.

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“Most of this trial will be about why the defendants did what they did,” Bernstein said.

Bernstein said if Arbery, an avid runner, had been white, he would have been able to go for an afternoon jog unmolested and “been home in time for Sunday supper.”

“Instead, he went out for a jog, and ended up running for his life. Instead, he ended up bleeding to death, alone and scared, in the middle of the street,” she told the court.

As Bernstein talked to the jury, Arbery’s parents sat in the front of the public gallery looking sombre and shaking a little. His father, Marcus Arbery, sighed as Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, put her arm on Marcus Arbery’s shoulders.

Bernstein cited several messages posted on Facebook and elsewhere in which all three men used racial epithets.

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She especially highlighted the words of Travis McMichael – who shot Arbery – who she said had made violent and racist statements on social media, including calling Black people “monkeys” and “subhuman savages.” He had also told a friend that he was glad to have left the Coast Guard because he no longer had to work with or be around Black people, she added.

She said the jury would hear from a witness how Gregory McMichael “went on a racist rant about Black people.”

Bernstein said Bryan used a racial epithet in an online post after learning four days before Arbery’s death that his daughter was dating a Black man.

USING THE N-WORD

Defense attorneys for the three men said in their opening statements that they found their clients’ use of racial epithets deeply offensive, but emphasized it was no reason to convict them. They said the men were not motivated by Arbery’s race.

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“I can’t stand before you and say my client has never used the ‘N-word’,” said Amy Copeland, the attorney for Travis McMichael. “He did. He left a digital footprint over several years.”

But Copeland said Travis McMichael had chiefly been concerned with cases of theft that had left his neighbourhood on high alert when he decided to chase down Arbery.

Trial experts told Reuters that the challenge for the prosecutors will be to back up the evidence of racist utterances with evidence that on the day of the shooting the three men were motivated by racial animus.

The court is scheduled to hear from Special Agent Richard Dial of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who has previously testified that Bryan told his office that Travis McMichael uttered a racial slur as Arbery lay dying.

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Bryan’s attorney, Pete Theodocion, tried to distance his client from the McMichaels, saying that when he joined the McMichaels in chasing Arbery he assumed “he (Arbery) did something wrong, but not because of his race.”

Travis McMichael said at a hearing last month that he was willing to plead guilty to attacking Arbery because of his “race and colour” after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors.

But he changed his mind after Judge Lisa Wood rejected the agreement, saying she could not accept it because it bound her to sentencing McMichael to 30 years in federal prison before he was handed back to the state of Georgia to serve out the rest of his life sentence for murder.

She said she needed more information to know whether a 30-year sentence was just, and cited emotional testimony from Arbery’s family.
 

spaminator

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Arbery killer shared racist messages, white supremacist song with friends
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Rich Mckay and Brad Brooks
Publishing date:Feb 16, 2022 • 16 hours ago • 2 minute read • 16 Comments
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, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022.
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, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. PHOTO BY STEPHEN B. MORTON
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BRUNSWICK — The gunman convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man in Georgia, repeatedly used racist language in text messages with friends, and also shared a music video of a white supremacist singer, jurors at his federal hate crimes trial heard on Wednesday.

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Travis McMichael, who along with his father and neighbor are on trial, left a racist digital footprint stretching back to at least 2013 and, in the case of the neighbor, continued even after the murder of Arbery, 25, in 2020, FBI agent Amy Vaughan, tasked with processing the digital evidence in the case, told jurors.

Arbery’s killing was one of several murders of Black men and women, often at the hands of police, that helped spark recent racial justice protests. The federal trial of Arbery’s killers is the first in which those who carried out a high-profile killing are facing a jury in a hate-crime trial.

Jurors also saw Facebook posts that Travis McMichael made lauding vigilantism, including one in which he said that he keeps his shotgun, which he used to murder Arbery, loaded with what he thought was a more powerful “high-brass” shell, that he wrote would “rip somebody to shreds.”

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Vaughan said that racist messages from McMichael, his father Greg McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were extracted from their cellphones and Facebook profiles. Numerous messages were shown and read aloud to jurors.

Travis McMichael, 36, Gregory McMichael, 66, and Bryan, 52, were convicted by a state court last year for chasing Arbery through the streets of their mostly white neighborhood and shooting him dead. Prosecutors in the new federal trial say Arbery was targeted because he was Black.

Defence attorneys for the three men said their clients were not motivated by Arbery’s race, but rather by security fears after a series of break-ins in the neighborhood. Prosecutors contend racial animus was at the heart of the three men’s actions when they pursued him while he was on a Sunday afternoon jog.

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In one text message Travis McMichael sent to a friend, he discusses how happy he was to leave the Coast Guard and to be working as a government contractor, by saying: “Love it, zero n******work with me.”

In another instance, McMichael sent a video via Facebook message to a friend. Attached to the message was a song titled “Alabama N*****” by Johnny Rebel, a recording artist whose work explicitly supported white supremacy. The song played over a video of a Black child dancing.

During the state trial last year, prosecutors did not focus on racial animus as a motivating factor in the crime. They only sought to prove the men were responsible for Arbery’s death, regardless of motive.
 

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Ahmaud Arbery's killers convicted on all U.S. hate-crimes charges
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Rich Mckay
Publishing date:Feb 22, 2022 • 14 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
Travis McMichael, left, speaks with his attorney Bob Rubin, right, during the sentencing of his and his father Greg McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan, in the Glynn County Courthouse, in Brunswick, Ga., Jan. 7, 2022.
Travis McMichael, left, speaks with his attorney Bob Rubin, right, during the sentencing of his and his father Greg McMichael, and William "Roddie" Bryan, in the Glynn County Courthouse, in Brunswick, Ga., Jan. 7, 2022. PHOTO BY STEPHEN B. MORTON/POOL /REUTERS
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BRUNSWICK — The three white men convicted of chasing down and murdering a young Black man, Ahmaud Arbery, as he was out jogging in their suburban Georgia community, were found guilty on Tuesday of committing federal hate crimes and other offences in the 2020 killing.

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A predominantly white jury deliberated for about four hours over two days before returning the verdict against Travis McMichael, 36, his father, former police officer Gregory McMichael, 66, and a neighbour, William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, in U.S. District Court in Brunswick, Georgia.

“Ahmaud will continue to rest in peace but he will now begin to rest in power,” Wanda Cooper-Jones, Ahmaud’s mother, said outside the courthouse after the verdict was read.

All three men were found guilty of violating Arbery’s civil rights by attacking him because of his race, and of attempted kidnapping, capping the latest high-profile trial to probe issues of vigilantism and racial violence in America.

The McMichaels were also convicted of a federal firearms charge. Bryan was not charged with a weapons offence. The hate-crimes felony, the most serious of the charges the defendants faced, carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. The judge has not yet set a sentencing date.

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The three men were convicted last year of murder and other crimes in state court and sentenced to life terms for the shotgun slaying of Arbery, 25, a onetime high school football star who worked for a truck-washing company and his father’s landscaping business.

Prosecutors in the state trial avoided characterizing the killing as racist, seeking only to prove that the McMichaels and Bryan were responsible for his death.

Cooper-Jones on Tuesday railed against the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors, who had originally reached a plea deal with the defendants to avoid a trial, as typically happens in hate-crimes cases, such as with Derek Chauvin, the police officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck and was found guilty of murdering him.

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In a rare move, the judge last month rejected the plea deal after Ahmaud’s family implored her not to accept it.

“What we got today, we wouldn’t have gotten today if it wasn’t for the fight that the family put up,” Cooper-Jones said. “What the DOJ did today, they was made to do today. It wasn’t because it’s what they wanted to do.”

The family and supporters plan to hold a vigil on Wednesday in the neighbourhood where Arbery was killed to mark the second anniversary of his murder.

Arbery was shot to death on Feb. 23, 2020, by the younger McMichael after all three defendants had chased him down in pickup trucks as the victim was out for an afternoon jog through the community of Satilla Shores, near the southeastern coastal town of Brunswick.

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The McMichaels insisted they did not act out of racial animus but out of self-defence and a belief that Arbery appeared suspicious when they saw him running through the streets after a series of neighbourhood break-ins.

But trial testimony revealed there had been no burglaries. Federal prosecutors presented testimony from 20 witnesses and other evidence they said showed that the three men had long histories of using slurs and making racist statements. The defence rested its case after calling just one witness.

There was never any dispute that the younger McMichael fired his shotgun three times at Arbery at close range.

The killing was captured in a graphic cellphone video recorded by Bryan, stoking public outrage when it surfaced on social media more than two months later with no arrests yet made, even though Travis McMichael had admitted to police at the scene that he gunned down Arbery.

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Civil rights activists pointed to the lag time in arrests of the three men as the latest example of law enforcement allowing white perpetrators to go unpunished in the unjustified killing of Black people.

Arbery’s name became entwined with a host of others invoked in a summer of protests against racial injustice across the United States after Floyd, another unarmed Black man, was killed in May 2020. The federal prosecution of Arbery’s killers is the first in which those who committed such a high-profile murder are facing a jury in a hate-crime trial.

In response to Arbery’s murder, lawmakers in Georgia passed a law in 2020 that hiked punishments for hate crimes and mandated data collection on hate crimes. A year later, lawmakers overhauled a Civil War-era citizens arrest law in an effort to prevent vigilantism.
 

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Arbery shooter fears he'll be killed in state prison: Lawyer
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Russ Bynum
Publishing date:Aug 05, 2022 • 20 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation

SAVANNAH, Ga. — The white man who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery after chasing the running Black man in a Georgia neighborhood says he fears he will be killed by fellow inmates if he’s sent to a state prison to serve a life sentence for murder.


Travis McMichael, 36, faces sentencing Monday in U.S. District Court after his conviction on federal hate crime charges in February. His defence attorney filed a legal motion Thursday asking the judge to keep McMichael in federal custody.

Attorney Amy Lee Copeland argued McMichael has received “hundreds of threats” and won’t be safe in a Georgia state prison system that is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department amid concerns about violence between inmates.

On Feb. 23, 2020, McMichael and his father, Greg McMichael, armed themselves with guns and jumped in a pickup truck to chase Arbery after he ran past their home just outside the port city of Brunswick. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun.


The killing of Arbery became part of a larger national reckoning over racial injustice amid other high-profile killings of unarmed Black people including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.

In Georgia, the McMichaels and Bryan were sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of Arbery’s murder in a state court last fall. They have remained in a county jail in custody of U.S. marshals since standing trial in February in federal court, where a jury convicted them of hate crimes. Each defendant now faces a potential second life sentence.

Once the men are sentenced Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, protocol would be to turn them over the Georgia Department of Corrections to serve their prison terms for murder. That’s because they were first arrested and tried by state authorities.


For Travis McMichael, “his concern is that he will promptly be killed upon delivery to the state prison system for service of that sentence,” Copeland wrote in her sentencing request. “He has received numerous threats of death that are credible in light of all circumstances.”

Copeland said she has alerted Georgia’s corrections agency, “which has replied that these threats are unverified and that it can securely house McMichael in state custody.”

Greg McMichael, 66, has also asked the judge to put him in federal rather than state prison, citing safety concerns and health problems.

Arbery’s family family has insisted the McMichaels and Bryan should serve their sentences in a state prison, arguing a federal penitentiary wouldn’t be as tough. His parents objected forcefully before the federal trial when both McMichaels sought a plea deal that would have included a request to transfer them to federal prison. The judge ended up rejecting the plea agreement.


“Granting these men their preferred choice of confinement would defeat me,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told the judge at a hearing Jan. 31. “It gives them one last chance to spit in my face.”

A federal judge doesn’t have the authority to order a state to relinquish its lawful custody of inmates to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said Ed Tarver, an Augusta lawyer and former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

“She can certainly make that request,” Tarver said of the judge, “and it would be up to the state Department of Corrections whether or not they agree to do that.”

Copeland’s court filing refers to a prior agreement between the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys to keep the McMichaels and Bryan in federal custody “through the completion of the federal trial and any post-trial proceedings.” She argued that means Travis McMichael should at least remain in federal custody through appeals of his hate crime conviction.
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Father, son who murdered Ahmaud Arbery get life sentences for U.S. hate crime
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Rich Mckay
Publishing date:Aug 08, 2022 • 13 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation

BRUNSWICK — A judge sentenced white father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael to life in prison on Monday for a federal hate crime in the 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man shot after jogging in a suburban Georgia neighbourhood in a case that involved issues of racist violence and vigilantism in America.

U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced Travis McMichael, a 36-year-old former U.S. Coast Guard mechanic, and Gregory McMichael, a 66-year-old former Glynn County police officer who later worked for the local prosecutor’s office, in the coastal city of Brunswick.

Both men already are serving life sentences with no possibility of parole after being convicted of Arbery’s murder in a state trial last November. They were the first two of the three white men convicted in February in a subsequent federal trial to be sentenced in consecutive hearings on Monday.

In handing down the younger McMichael’s sentence, Wood said the widely seen cellphone video of him shooting Arbery at close range with a shotgun was seared into her memory.

“You acted because of the colour of Mr. Arbery’s skin,” the judge told McMichael, who looked ashen as the sentence was pronounced.

The two McMichaels and their neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, were convicted of violating Arbery’s civil rights by attacking him because of his race and of attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels also were convicted of a federal firearms charge. Bryan, who worked as a mechanic, is scheduled to be sentenced later on Monday.

Gregory McMichael, testifying before he was sentenced, told Arbery’s family he prayed that “God’s peace” would to come to them.

“The loss that you’ve endured is beyond description,” he said as some of Arbery’s relatives wiped away tears in a crowded courtroom that included civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. “I’m sure that my words mean very little to you, but I want 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 apologized to his son, who had earlier declined his own chance to testify, and to his wife, who began sobbing, but did not explicitly apologize to Arbery’s family.

‘THREE DEVILS’

Marcus Arbery, the slain man’s father, told the court during the first hearing: “These three devils have broken my heart into pieces that cannot be found or repaired.” Referring to Travis McMichael, he added: “You hate Black people.”

“I struggled to come to the realization that a father could actually accompany his son to take a life,” Wanda Cooper Jones, Arbery’s mother, told the second hearing in urging a life sentence for Gregory McMichael.

Arbery’s case is one in a series of killings of Black people in recent years that have drawn attention to the issue of racism in the U.S. criminal justice system and law enforcement. It also highlighted the broader issue of U.S. gun violence.

Arbery, an avid jogger and fitness buff, was running through the leafy mostly white Satilla Shores neighbourhood, near Brunswick, on a February 2020 afternoon when the McMichaels decided to grab their guns, jump in a pickup truck and give chase. Their neighbour Bryan joined the chase in his own pickup truck and pulled out his cellphone to record Travis McMichael firing a shotgun at Arbery at close range. Arbery had nothing on him besides his running clothes and sneakers.

The video emerged months later, prompting anti-racism protests in many U.S. cities because the McMichaels and Bryan had not been arrested after a local prosecutor concluded the killing was justified.

The McMichaels have said they believed that Arbery appeared suspicious, speaking of a series of neighbourhood break-ins. No evidence ever emerged connecting Arbery to any Satilla Shore thefts.

The three men were convicted last November in state court of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony, with a jury rejecting self-defence claims. They have appealed.

Both McMichaels had asked through lawyers to be transferred out of the state prison system into a federal prison he perceived to be safer. Wood said the rules required they return to the state prison system where they already are serving life sentences.

A lawyer for the younger McMichael, Amy Lee Copeland, said he has received death threats.

“This case involves at least in part concerns of vigilante justice,” she told the court. “I realize the rich irony, judge, in expressing my concern that my client will face vigilante justice himself.”