Killers of Ahmaud Arbery Found Guilty Of Federal Hate Crimes Violations
The three Georgia men already convicted and sentenced in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty in the federal hate crimes trial on Tuesday (Feb. 22). Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan had already been sentenced to life in prison in a state trial for Arbery’s Feb. 2020 shooting death when they confronted him, suspecting him of burglary.
But the federal trial focused on their use of racist language, which came out in testimony, revealed by a series of text messages and social media posts, according to the Associated Press.
Arbery, 25, died when both McMichaels and Bryan, all of whom are white, chased him and cornered him with their pickup trucks as he jogged through a neighborhood in Brunswick. A video taken by Bryan showed Arbery struggling with Travis McMichael and being shot point blank, killing him. After months of trying to be heard, but finding no success with local prosecutors, Cooper-Jones’ efforts convinced Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to appoint former Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes as special prosecutor.
The three defendants were found guilty in November of Arbery’s murder and sentenced in January to life in prison. But in the federal trial, prosecutors convinced jurors that they had a history of using racist language when referring to Black people.
In one text message from Travis McMichael, in which he was frustrated with having to share space with Black people at a local restaurant, he wrote: "Need to change the name from Cracker Barrel to N***** Bucket," a prosecutor argued.
Gregory McMichael was described in testimony in an incident in which he turned off his tenant’s air conditioning for late rental payment. "You should have seen how fast her big fat Black a** came with the rent check," said McMichael, according to the witness testimony.
Bryan, was characterized as having made offensive statements about Black people and Martin Luther King Day, and also being upset about his daughter dating a Black man. "I've always told her this is the only thing I could not accept," prosecutors said he texted a friend.
The testimony was enough to convince jurors that the three men had racist intent when they chased Arbery down, although they maintained that they suspected that he was burglarizing a home in the area that was under construction.
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Gregory McMichael’s attorney, A.J. Balbo, insisted that Arbery’s actions–not his race–made him seem suspicious to his clients. He pointed out that Arbery entered the unfinished house several times at night.
But a Glynn County, Ga., police officer testified that there was no evidence that Arbery had stolen anything from the home.
Despite the victory, Cooper-Jones was still critical of the Justice Department, saying that it did not want to move forward with a trial and instead was willing to take a plea deal.
"What the DOJ did today, they was [sic] made to do today," she said. "It wasn't because [of] what they wanted to do, they were made to do their job today."
After the verdict was read Crump released a statement praising the verdict.
“For many of us, there was never any doubt that Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan targeted Ahmaud because of his skin color,” said Crump. “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.”