The convicted killers of Ahmaud Arbery have now also been found guilty of violating federal hate crime laws.
Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William Bryan were all found guilty of all counts against them by a federal jury in Brunswick, Georgia — including violating Arbery’s civil rights, kidnapping, and additional charges against both Travis and Gregory McMichael of using a firearm to commit a crime.
Two years ago, the trio chased Arbery, a 25-year-old Black jogger, through the Satilla Shores neighborhood, outside Brunswick . They later said that they suspected Arbery of trespassing and gave chase, ultimately cornering Arbery as Travis McMichael confronted him with a shotgun, fatally shooting him.
Key to the federal case against the men was the allegation that Arbery’s race was a motivating factor in their actions.
“At the end of the day, the evidence in this case will prove that if Ahmaud Arbery had been white, he would have gone for a jog, checked out a house under construction and been home in time for Sunday supper,” Prosecutor Bobbi Bernstein told the jury earlier this month. “Instead he went out for a jog, and he ended up running for his life. Instead he ended up bleeding to death, alone and scared, in the middle of the street.”
The trio of defendants were previously found guilty of murder in state court, and sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole reserved only for Bryan. The federal charges of which the trio now stand convicted carry potential life sentences as well.
Text messages and other material introduced at trial showed the defendants using racial slurs, and witnesses recounted racist behavior from the men.
“These defendants saw Ahmaud as less than human, as less than an animal,” prosecutor Tara Lyons told the jury Monday.
The convictions came weeks after Arbery’s family asked the court to reject plea deals reached between prosecutors and the McMichaels, which would have recommended that the men serve 30 years in a federal prison before being transferred to a state facility.
“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,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told the court. “The state of Georgia already gave these men exactly what they deserve. Please leave it that way.”
The judge rejected the plea agreements, which stated that the defendant who fatally shot Abery, Travis McMichael, acted in part based on Arbery’s race.
“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,” the rejected plea agreement read. “But he had made assumptions about Ahmaud Arbery that he would not have made if Ahmaud Arbery had been white.”