Three white males who were found guilty of killing a black jogger received federal hate crime sentences. Gregory McMichael, 66, Travis McMichael, 36, and William Bryan, their neighbor, are all currently serving life sentences for the murder. The father and son received life sentences on Monday, while Bryan received a 35-year prison term. Their new sentences will run simultaneously with their terms in state prison. During a dispute with the three men in Georgia in February 2020, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed.
The case served as a rallying cry for those calling for racial justice across the US. The three guys were convicted of federal hate crime charges in February. These included attempting to kidnap Mr. Arbery and interfering with his ability to use a public street because of his race. About a firearms charge, the McMichaels were also found guilty. Prosecutors tried to depict the defendants in court as having a long-standing disdain for black people, as evidenced by their use of racist and disparaging language in both public and private.
At the sentence, Travis McMichael did not speak. His father addressed the family of Mr. Arbery directly and expressed his understanding of the loss they have undergone, which is beyond description. In February 2020, Mr. Arbery was assassinated while out for an afternoon jog in a Brunswick, Georgia suburb. A neighbor, the senior McMichael, told police he thought Mr. Arbery resembled the suspect in a string of local break-ins. No reports of these purported break-ins, according to the police.
Judge Lisa Wood turned down Travis McMichael’s plea on Monday to serve his sentence in federal prison rather than a state prison. According to his attorney, spending the rest of his life in a state jail amounted to the “backdoor death punishment” and put him at risk of attack by other prisoners.
After the mother of Mr. Arbery passionately protested, the judge previously rejected a plea agreement that would have let the McMichaels serve 30 years in federal prison before being released back into state care. The perception of federal prisons is that they are less harsh than normal state prisons.
For the shooting, Travis and Gregory McMichael received a life sentence without the possibility of release in January. The judge remarked that neither man had expressed regret or sympathy for Mr. Arbery at the time. Bryan was likewise given a life sentence, but he was also given the option of release in 30 years. Their state court convictions have been appealed.