Megan Sheets, Daily Mail, October 8, 2020
Lawyers for the father and son duo charged with murdering 25-year old jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia say that the third defendant charged in the case, who filmed the video of the shooting, is lying about what happened to protect himself.
Attorneys for Gregory and Travis McMichael sought to defend their clients in a new episode of 48 Hours airing on Saturday as the men remain jailed on charges for Arbery’s February 23 killing.
William ‘Roddie’ Bryan Jr, who filmed a video of the shooting, was also charged with murder after prosecutors said he joined the McMichaels in their pursuit of Arbery, who was running alone and unarmed through a neighborhood outside Brunswick when he was killed.
Bryan Jr told police that after Travis fired three shots at Arbery, he stood over his body and shouted: ‘F***ing n*****.’
But the McMichaels’ attorneys say that never happened, and that Bryan Jr was lying because he wanted to protect himself.
‘I think Roddie Bryan is incredibly motivated…to keep himself from becoming a murder defendant in a murder trial,’ Travis’s attorney Jason Sheffield told 48 Hours correspondent Omar Villafranca.
Defense teams for both Travis and Gregory have insisted that the attack was not racially motivated and that the men felt threatened by Arbery.
‘It’s not just two white men out there, hunting down, trapping and executing a black man, as the prosecution characterized it,’ said Frank Hogue, an attorney for Gregory.
‘That is not what happened.’
Another attorney for Travis, Bob Rubin, said: ‘This is a case about a good man who had to defend himself on February 23 when he was in a terrible situation.’
The McMichaels claimed that they began pursuing Arbery in their truck because they thought he was a burglar after a spate of thefts in their area, and that he attacked them when they tried to make a citizen’s arrest.
‘[Travis is] being attacked and overwhelmed by Ahmaud Arbery’s strength. And he has to either fire that gun or lose his life at that point,’ Rubin told Villafranca.
Villafranca then asked: ‘Why not let him run away and keep eyes on him from a distance… knowing that you’ve put this fear of God in this person if you think they have committed a crime?’
Sheffield chimed in: ‘I don’t know that Travis thought that he’d put the fear of God into this person.
‘This person put the fear of God into Travis, based on the way that he was acting.’
Villafranca countered: ‘Even though Travis has a gun and a vehicle, and Ahmaud Arbery has two legs?’
‘You still can be afraid while you have possession of a firearm,’ Sheffield said.
Attorneys for both McMichaels emphasized that Gregory, a formal Naval officer, and Travis, a former member of the Coast Guard, have saved many people, including African Americans, during their time in law enforcement.
While they insist that Arbery’s killing was not motivated by race, lead prosecutor Jesse Evans maintains that the victim’s skin color made him a target.
‘Any single shot was too much,’ Evans told Villafranca. ‘Merely pointing that shotgun at somebody was too much. Getting in pickup trucks and chasing Ahmaud Arbery down was too much. This whole case is too much.’
Evans also said there was no evidence to suggest that Arbery was the aggressor.
‘Clearly, the persons that started this were Greg and Travis McMichael,’ he said.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, was also interviewed in the 48 Hours special.
‘They took my baby boy from me,’ Cooper Jones said. ‘I want justice for Ahmaud … so Ahmaud can rest in peace.’
Gregory and Travis are each charged with both felony murder and aggravated assault. Bryan Jr is charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. All three men have pleaded not guilty.
No trial date has been set amid the pandemic and all three men remain in jail.
Last week Evans filed a motion in Gynn County Court asking a judge for permission to enter ‘racial’ Facebook posts and text messages sent by all three defendants into evidence in the case.
Prosecutors said the messages and posts contain ‘a ton of filth including the N word’ and will serve as ‘proof of motive’.
Travis is said to have a shared a ‘racial highway video Facebook post,’ ‘a racial Johnny Rebel Facebook post’ and a racial text message in 2019.
His father Gregory reportedly shared an ‘Identity Dixie Facebook post’ and ‘Racial Johnny Rebel Facebook post’.
Bryan Jr is said to have sent ‘racial messages extracted from cell phone’. In July prosecutor Evans said he repeatedly used the n-word in messages containing ‘a ton of filth’.