The white man who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery after stalking the 25-year-old black man in a Georgia neighborhood was sentenced to life in prison on Monday for a federal hate crime.
Travis McMichael was sentenced by US District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in the port city of Braunschweig. His punishment is largely symbolic, as McMichael was sentenced to life in prison without parole for Arbery’s murder in a Georgia state court earlier this year.
Wood said McMichael received a “fair trial.
And it’s not lost on the court that it was the kind of trial that Ahmaud Arbery didn’t get before he was shot,” the judge said. McMichael was one of three defendants convicted of federal hate crimes in February.
His father Greg McMichael and his neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan had scheduled hearings to hear the verdict on Monday. The McMichaels armed themselves with guns and used a pickup truck to chase Arbery after he ran past their home on February 23, 2020.
Bryan joined the chase in his own truck and recorded a cellphone video of McMichael shooting Arbery with a shotgun. The McMichaels told police they suspect Arbery of being a thief. Investigators determined that he was unarmed and had committed no crime.
Arbery’s killing on February 23, 2020, became part of a larger national trial addressing racial injustice and the killing of unarmed black people, including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. These two cases also prompted the Justice Department to file federal lawsuits.
Wood scheduled back-to-back hearings Monday to try each of the defendants individually, beginning with Travis McMichael, who killed Arbery with a shotgun after his father and, along with a neighbor who was also white, started a chase.
Greg McMichael and Bryan also face possible life sentences after a jury convicted them of federal hate crimes in February and concluded they violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because of his race. All three men have also been convicted of attempted kidnapping, and the McMichaels face additional penalties for using firearms to commit a violent crime.
A Supreme Court judge in January handed the three men life sentences for Arbery’s murder, and both McMichaels denied the possibility. Parole all three defendants remained in the custody of U.marshals in the Glynn County Coastal District while awaiting sentencing following their federal sentencing in January.
Because they were the first to be tried and convicted of murder in state court, protocol calls for them to be turned over to the Georgia Department of Corrections to serve life in state prison. In a court filing last week, both Travis and Greg McMichael asked the judge to transfer them to federal prison, saying they are in a Georgia prison system that is the subject of a US Department of Justice investigation focused on inter-inmate violence, not sure.
Arbery’s family has insisted that the McMichaels and Bryans serve their sentences in state prison, arguing that federal prison wouldn’t be as harsh. a request for transfer to federal prison. The judge eventually rejected the plea deal.
A federal judge does not have the authority to order the state
to turn over legal custody of inmates to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said Ed Tarver, an Augusta attorney and former U.S attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. He said the judge could request that the state correctional facility release the defendants to federal prison.
The McMichaels armed themselves with guns and got into a truck to chase Arbery after they saw him walking past their home outside the port town of Brunswick on February 23, 2020.
Bryan joined the chase in his own truck and helped cut off Arbery’s escape. He also captured a cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range as Arbery threw punches and grabbed the shotgun. The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery had stolen from a nearby house under construction. However, authorities later concluded that he was unarmed and had committed no crime.
Arbery’s family has long insisted that he only jogged. Still, more than two months passed before charges were filed in Arbery’s death. McMichaels and Bryan were only arrested after a graphic video of the shooting was leaked online and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local law enforcement.
In criminal proceedings, prosecutors reinforced their case that Arbery’s murder was racially motivated by showing the jury about two dozen text messages and social media posts in which Travis McMichael and Bryan used racial slurs and made derogatory comments about black people.
An angry tirade from Greg McMichael in 2015, in which he said: “All these black people are nothing but trouble. The three men’s defense attorneys argued that the McMichaels and Bryans did not persecute Arbery because of his race, but rather acted seriously, albeit unjustly. – suspected that Arbery had committed crimes in his neighborhood.