A jury convicted three white men who killed young black man Ahmaud Arbery of a federal hate crime on Tuesday.
Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan they were found guilty on all charges at the federal trial for violating Arbery’s civil rights.
The three men were convicted of rights interference, which is a hate crime, and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels were also found guilty of carrying and using a firearm during a violent crime.
Jurors were to decide whether Greg and Travis McMichael, father and son, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan violated Arbery’s civil rights and attacked him because he was black.
The three men had already been declared guilty of murder in a Georgia state court and sentenced to life imprisonment for the fatal shooting. Now it was about deciding if there was a hate crime.
The McMichaels and Bryan have pleaded not guilty to hate crime charges. His defense attorneys argued that the three did not persecute or kill Arbery because of his race, but rather acted “on the sincere, albeit mistaken, suspicion” that Arbery had committed crimes in his neighborhood.
“It’s another milestone, another challenge overcome,” Arbery’s mother said.
Arbery’s father was pleased after hearing the verdict: “We got justice for Ahmaud at the federal and state levels”Marcus Arbery said.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jonesshowed his joy with the sentence saying that “today is Super Tuesday” and added: “It is another milestone, another challenge that we have overcome.”
However, Arbery’s mother criticized the previous judicial action.
“Now I want to address the members of the Department of Justice. I am very grateful that they raised the hate crime charges, but on January 31, they accepted a plea deal with these three murderers who ended my son’s life.” Cooper-Jones said.
How was the murder of Ahmaud Arbery?
Arbery, 25 years old, was running for exercise through a residential area near Braunschweig, Georgia, when three men chased him in their vehicles. It was February 23, 2020. He was unarmed.
The third man is Gregory McMichaelformer police officer and investigator for the local district attorney’s office, McMichael’s father and Bryan’s neighbor.
Ultimately, Travis McMichael was found guilty on nine counts, including malicious murder; Gregory McMichael was found guilty of murder (although he was acquitted on the specific charge of malicious murder); and William Bryan was found guilty of murder, among others.
They had pleaded not guilty and their defense argued that they acted against Arbery because they suspected he was going to steal. Arbery was just jogging and had no weapon.
There were no charges until the video came to light
For months after the murder, no charges were filed against those convicted today. It only happened when the video from Bryan’s cell phone was made public, showing how they killed the young man and unleashed a wave of popular indignation.
The first two prosecutors withdrew from the case for conflicts of interest due to his proximity to Gregory McMichael during his professional career.
The account of the defendants and some witnesses is that in the weeks prior to Arbery’s murder there had been robberies in houses in the area.
McMichael testified that on the day of the incident his father told him he saw Arbery walking into the street. They got into his truck and, according to McMichael, they reached out to Arbery and tried to talk to him twice, but he didn’t respond.
Prosecutors argue that Bryan, the third defendant, got into his own truck and joined the chase, even though he didn’t know what was going on, and he hit Arbery with his vehicle.
McMichael further admitted that he never saw Arbery armed, that the young did not verbally threaten them and that he showed no interest in interacting with them when they asked him what he was doing.
Arbery’s case was added to several others of black citizens killed at the hands of police or white citizens and that generated a wave of historic outrage in 2020, including the most emblematic: that of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.