Ahmaud Arbery’s killers are set to be sentenced today on federal hate crime convictions

Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan were found guilty in February of interference with rights — a federal hate crime — and attempted kidnapping in connection with the 25-year-old Black man’s 2020 killing, with the jury accepting prosecutors’ argument the defendants acted out of racial animus toward Arbery.
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Travis McMichael, who fatally shot Arbery, was also found guilty of using and carrying a Remington shotgun while his father, Gregory was found guilty of using and carrying a .357 Magnum revolver.

The McMichaels and Bryan already are serving life sentences after being convicted in state court on a series of cartoons related to Arbery’s killing, including felony murder. The crimes, months before the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, were in some ways harbingers of the nationwide protests that erupted that summer as demonstrators decried how people of color are sometimes treated by law enforcement.

For their federal convictions, the McMichaels and Bryan could face additional life sentences and steep fines. To make their case, federal prosecutors focused on how each defendant had spoken about Black people in public and in private, using inflammatory, derogatory and racist language.

Prosecutors and Arbery’s family had said he was out for a jog — a common pastime for the former high school football player — on February 23, 2020, when the defendants chased and killed him in their neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia.
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Defense attorneys argued the McMichaels pursued Arbery in a pickup through neighborhood streets to stop him for police, believing he matched the description of someone captured in footage recorded at a home under construction. Prosecutors acknowledged Arbery had entered the home in the past, but he never took anything.

The defense also argued Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense as they wrestled over McMichael’s shotgun. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own truck after seeing the McMichaels follow Arbery in their pickup as he ran; Bryan recorded video of the shooting.

Two prosecutors initially instructed Glynn County police not to make arrests, and the defendants weren’t arrested for more than two months — and only after Bryan’s video of the surfaced killing, sparking the nationwide outcry.

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