Jimmy McCloskey and Jennifer Smith, Daily Mail, February 22, 2022
The three men who murdered black Georgia jogger Ahmaud Arbery have been convicted of federal hate crimes after a jury decided they’d targeted their victim because of his race.
Travis McMichael, his dad Gregory McMichael, and friend Roddy Bryan, who filmed the February 2020 murder in Macon, Georgia, were convicted Tuesday morning.
The McMichaels were already serving life without parole after being convicted of murder at state trial and Bryan was serving life with the possibility of parole after 15 years, but he now faces extra time because of the federal conviction.
After the verdict, the Arbery family announced plans to file civil lawsuits now that the criminal investigations and trials are complete. It is unclear who they will file charges against.
Unlike the state murder trial last year, the federal trial focused mostly on the racial elements of the case and the slurs the men used against Arbery.
The men all pleaded not guilty, insisting as they did at their state trial that they chased and killed Arbery because they thought he was a burglar.
The prosecution presented videos and testimony of how racist the men all were, including how they had used the N-word, referred to Arbery as a ‘trapped rat’ and as a ‘monkey’.
Prosecutors offered the men a plea deal that would involve them pleading guilty to the hate crime charges and offered them the possibility of serving some of their time in a more comfortable federal prison. It’s unclear where they will now serve their time.
In a statement after the verdict, attorney Ben Crump, representing Ahmaud’s family, said: ‘Tomorrow marks two years since Ahmaud Arbery was stalked, trapped, and murdered in cold blood as he jogged through his Brunswick neighborhood. And today, after much sorrow, grief, and pain, Ahmaud’s family can finally put this chapter behind them.
‘For the last 24 months, they’ve dedicated themselves to getting justice for their son.
They’ve had to relive his brutal murder, watch and listen as he was demonized in court, and fight to share with the world who Ahmaud Arbery was and who he could have been had his young life not been so violently cut short.
‘For many of us, there was never any doubt that Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan targeted Ahmaud because of his skin color.
‘But because of indisputable video evidence, disgusting messages sent by the defendants, and witness testimony, their hate was revealed to the world and the jury.
‘We hope and demand that the severity of their crimes are reflected in the sentencing, as well.
‘Ahmaud Arbery was denied the opportunity to define his own legacy, but America, we have the power to ensure that it is one that propels our fight for equal justice and dispels hate from this world.
‘That is how we continue to honor Ahmaud and make sure his death was not in vain.’
During the trial, prosecutors showed roughly two dozen text messages and social media posts in which Travis McMichael and Bryan used racist slurs and made derogatory comments about Black people.
The FBI wasn´t able to access Greg McMichael´s phone because it was encrypted.
The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue Arbery after seeing him running in their neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick in February 2020.
Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.
The killing became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice after the graphic video leaked online two months later.
A predominantly white jury deliberated for about four hours over two days before returning the verdict against.
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 additionally convicted of a federal firearms charge.
Bryan was not charged with a weapons offense. The hate-crimes felony, the most serious of the charges the defendants faced, carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Defense attorneys contended the three didn´t chase and kill Arbery because of his race but acted on the earnest, though erroneous, suspicion that Arbery had committed crimes in their neighborhood.
The trial closed Monday with prosecutors saying 25-year-old Arbery’s slaying on a residential street was motivated by ‘pent-up racial anger,’ revealed by the defendants’ electronic messages as well as by witnesses who testified to hearing them make racist tirades and insults.
‘All three defendants told you loud and clear, in their own words, how they feel about African Americans,’ prosecutor Tara Lyons told the jury Monday.
Defense attorneys insisted that past racist statements by their clients offered no proof they violated Arbery´s civil rights and targeted him because he´s Black. They urged the jury to set aside their emotions.
‘It’s natural for you to want retribution or revenge,’ said Pete Theodocion, representing William ‘Roddie’ Bryan. ‘But we have to elevate ourselves…even if it´s the tough thing.’