Posted on August 9, 2022

Georgia Dad, Son Sentenced to Life for Hate Crimes in Ahmaud Arbery Death

N'dea Yancey-Bragg and Raisa Habersham, USA Today, August 8, 2022

The three men serving life in prison for Ahmaud Arbery’s murder were again handed lengthy prison sentences Monday on federal hate crime charges.

Travis McMichael, who fatally shot Arbery, will serve his federal sentence of life plus 10 years. His father, Gregory, who initiated the deadly pursuit of the jogger, will serve life prison plus seven years. Their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, who took a video of the killing, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

They will serve the federal sentences concurrently with the state time. The judge denied each man’s request Monday to serve his sentences in federal prison.

In February, a jury found that the three men, who are white, violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because of his race. Arbery was Black.

Although the men are already serving life sentences, the additional punishments mark “an important moment for the Civil Rights Section of the Department of Justice and an important moment for the federal judiciary,” said Ayesha Bell Hardaway, an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law and co-director of the school’s Social Justice Institute.

“It is a rejection of our nation’s ugly history when public lynchings were celebrated with family picnics,” she said.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said “protecting civil rights and combatting white supremacist violence” is part of the DOJ’s founding purpose.


Arbery, 25, was killed Feb. 23, 2020, after the McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a truck to chase him after he ran past their home outside Brunswick. Bryan, 52, joined the chase in his own truck, helped block Arbery’s escape and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range as the men struggled.

Prosecutors in the federal trial, which lasted a week, included evidence they said showed the men killed Arbery out of racial animus, such as racial slurs and repeated racist characterization of Black people who committed alleged crimes. Defense attorneys argued the McMichaels and Bryan pursued Arbery not because of his race but because of an earnest – though erroneous – suspicion that he had committed crimes in their neighborhood.

The McMichaels and Bryan were found guilty of one count each of interference with rights and attempted kidnapping in February. The McMichaels were convicted of one count of using, carrying and brandishing – and firing, in Travis’ case – a gun during and in relation to a crime of violence.


Monday, several members of Arbery’s family asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence and insisted all three men serve time in state prison.

Though the sentencing hearings signal the end of the lengthy legal process for Arbery’s killers, his mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, noted that former Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson still awaits trial on charges of violating her oath of office and hindering a police investigation. Prosecutors allege Johnson used her position to protect McMichael and his son.

Cooper-Jones said she’d like to see consequences for Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill, who initially claimed the McMichaels and Bryan acted in self defense.


Travis McMichael’s attorney Amy Copeland asked Monday for her client to be placed in federal custody before he served time in state prison because of death threats he received. “I am concerned my client faces a backdoor death penalty,” she said.