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Ahmaud Arbery’s Shooter Withdraws Guilty Plea For Hate Crime

Travis McMichael Won’t Admit to Killing Arbery Because of Race

Travis McMichael, who was convicted of murder for shooting Ahmaud Arbery, withdrew his guilty plea on a federal hate crime charge Friday (Feb. 4). He is electing instead to stand trial for a second time in the 2020 killing

The Associated Press reported McMichael, who was convicted with his father, Gregory and neighbor, William “Roddy” Bryan, reversed his plan to plead guilty in the federal case only days after a U.S. District Court judge rejected the terms of a plea deal. Arbery's parents objected to any such plea.

That means all three of the white men who stalked and shot Ahmaud Arbery, who is Black, will return to court for the federal trial next week, after plea deals for McMichael and his father fell apart. Gregory McMichael reversed from a plan to plead guilty in a legal filing late Thursday.

The father and son McMichaels planned to plead guilty to a hate crime charge after prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to propose a 30-year sentence that would include a request to transfer them from Georgia's state prison system to federal custody. Such a deal would have  required the men to admit to racist motives and they would forfeit any right to appeal their federal sentence.

The judge rejected the deal Monday after Arbery's parents argued that conditions in federal prison would be more lenient. Judge Lisa Godbey Wood said she denied the deal because it would have locked her into a specific sentence.

The McMichaels and  a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, were convicted of murder in a Georgia state court last fall and sentenced to life in prison. Georgia did not have a hate crimes law at the time of the killing. The U.S. Department of Justice had them indicted on charges that the three white men violated Arbery's civil rights and targeted him because he was Black.

The McMichaels armed themselves and chased Arbery in a pickup truck. They saw the  25-year-old man jogging past their home on Feb. 23, 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael killing Arbery with a shotgun.

During the murder trial in state court, defense attorneys argued the McMichaels were justified in pursuing Arbery because they had a reasonable suspicion that he had committed crimes in their neighborhood. Travis McMichael testified that he opened fire with his shotgun after Arbery attacked him with fists and tried to grab the weapon.

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