Brunswick, Ga. (AP) — Three white men who chased and killed Ahmed Arbery were sentenced to prison Friday after a judge denied any chance of parole for the father and son, who armed themselves and 25 began the deadly search of a – year old black man.
Murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison under Georgia law unless prosecutors seek the death penalty, which they chose for Arbery’s murder.
For Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley, the main decision was whether to give Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddy” Bryan one last chance to earn parole.
The judge ordered both McMichaels to spend life without parole. Brian was granted parole, but would first have to serve at least 30 years in prison.
Arbery’s family asked a judge on Friday to show no leniency in sentencing the three men.
During the sentencing hearing, Arbery’s sister recalled her brother’s humor, describing him as a positive thinker with a big personality. She told the judge that her brother’s skin “glowed in the sun”, had thick, curly hair and an athletic build, which made him a target for men who pursued him.
“It is these qualities that made these people believe that Ahmed was a dangerous criminal and chased them with guns. To me, those qualities reflect a young man full of life and energy who looked like me and those people. The ones I loved,” said Jasmine Arbery.
Arbery’s mother demanded a maximum sentence, saying she suffered a personal, profound loss, made worse by a trial where the men’s defense was that Arbery made poor choices that led to his death. .
“It wasn’t a case of mistaken identity or misogyny. They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community. They chose to treat him differently than other people who frequently visited their community.” , ”said Wanda Cooper-Jones. “And when they couldn’t scare or intimidate her enough, they killed her.”
Prosecutor Linda Dunnikowski asked the judge for life without parole for Travis and Greg McMichael and the possibility of parole for Brian. But she said all deserve a mandatory life sentence for showing “no sympathy for the trapped and frightened Ahmed Arbery”.
After Dunnoski revealed Friday that the McMichaels still believed he had done nothing wrong, Greg McMichael gave Brian’s cellphone video to a lawyer who leaked it.
“He believed it was going to acquit him,” the prosecutor said.
For Travis McMichael, who is 35, the prospect of parole could mean the prospect of being released from prison in his 60s, said one of his defense attorneys, Robert Rubin. He argued that Travis McMichael had “Mr. Arbery come up to him and hold the gun.” But Rubin considered his client’s decisions to arm himself and pursue Arbery as “reckless” and “thoughtless.”
“They are not evidence of a soul so darkened that it deserves to spend the rest of its life in prison,” Rubin said. “It was not a planned murder. It was a gun battle that resulted in the death of Mr. Arbery.
Greg McMichael recently turned 66, and Brian is 52, raising the possibility that he will spend the rest of his life in prison even if given the chance of parole.
Greg McMichael’s attorney, Laura Hogg, said her client has health problems and admitted that he will never be able to get out of prison. But he said giving him the chance on parole showed he didn’t intend for Arbery to die, not drawing his gun until his son fired his shot.
“Greg McMichael didn’t leave his house hoping to kill that day,” Hogg told the judge. “He did not see his son firing that gun with anything other than fear and sadness. What this jury found was an unintentional act. ,
Bryan’s lawyer said he should get a chance on parole because he showed remorse and cooperated with the police, helping them to trace the cellphone video of the shooting to the truth.
“Mr. Brian is not the one who brought the gun,” said Kevin Gough. “He was unarmed. And I think it reflects their intentions.”
The guilty verdicts against the men, delivered the day before Thanksgiving, celebrated a victory outside the Glynn County Courthouse for those who viewed Arbery’s death as part of a larger national countdown on racial injustice.
The three men were also convicted of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to false imprisonment. The maximum prison terms for those cases range from five to 20 years. The judge was likely to allow those additional punishments to be awarded as well as a sentence of life imprisonment for murder.
The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped into a pickup truck after following 25-year-old Arbery as he ran through his neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick on February 23, 2020. Bryan joined the chase in his truck and recorded a cellphone video of Travis McMichael exploding close-up shotguns at Arbery as he threw punches and grabbed the weapon.
The killing went unnoticed until two months later, when a graphic video leaked online and sparked national outrage. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from the local police and soon arrested the three men.
Defense lawyers have said they plan to appeal the convictions. He has 30 days after sentencing.
The following month, the McMichaels and Brian face a second trial, this time in US District Court on federal hate crime charges. A judge has set February 7 for jury selection to begin. Prosecutors would argue that the three men violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because he was black.