A federal jury found three white men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, in their coastal Georgia neighborhood in 2020 guilty of hate crimes and other charges.
The jury deliberated for a few hours before finding Travis McMichael, 36 years old; his father Gregory McMichael, 66; and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., 52, guilty of interference with Mr. Arbery’s civil rights and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels also were convicted of a firearms charge and Travis McMichael, who shot Mr. Arbery to death with a shotgun, also was convicted of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. The men will be sentenced at a later date.
In November, all three were convicted in state court of the murder of Mr. Arbery, and all were sentenced to life in prison. The McMichaels were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. A state judge gave Mr. Bryan the possibility of parole.
The Arbery case gained national attention after a video of the incident became public and prosecutors hadn’t brought charges, prompting calls for a state investigation. The state charged the men with murder and other charges, and federal prosecutors charged the men with civil-rights offenses.
The McMichaels had reached plea deals in January with the Justice Department that would have avoided the federal trial. That agreement unraveled after Mr. Arbery’s family successfully urged the judge to reject it.
“Today’s verdict makes clear that the Justice Department will continue to use every resource at its disposal to confront unlawful acts of hate and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them,” Attorney General
said in a news conference. When asked why the plea deals unraveled, his voice cracked and he began to tear up: “I cannot imagine the pain that a mother feels to have her son run down and then gunned down while taking a jog on a public street.”
who is working with Mr. Arbery’s family, said: “Today after much sorrow, grief, and pain, Ahmaud’s family can finally put this chapter behind them. For the last 24 months, they’ve dedicated themselves to getting justice for their son.”
Convictions in federal hate-crimes cases are challenging because prosecutors must persuade jurors not just that the defendants were racist, but that they were motivated by race, said Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.
“They had to show that this crime occurred because these defendants hated Ahmud Arbery, and that’s tough,” she said.
During a weeklong trial, federal prosecutors presented racist statements that the men had made in the past and argued the men pursued Mr. Arbery because he was a Black man in their predominantly white neighborhood of Satilla Shores, near Brunswick.
Defense lawyers argued the men pursued Mr. Arbery because they thought he had been responsible for recent crimes in the neighborhood and had trespassed.
Travis McMichael chased Mr. Arbery, 25, with his father and Mr. Bryan in two pickup trucks on Feb. 23, 2020. In an altercation with Mr. Arbery, Travis McMichael shot Mr. Arbery with a 12-gauge shotgun. Mr. Arbery was unarmed.
Mr. Arbery’s death drew national attention after the video showing the fatal shooting circulated, with many Black civil-rights groups and leaders calling it an example of racist vigilantism. The case led to the passage of a hate-crime law in Georgia.
The verdict is symbolically significant and signals the Justice Department’s priorities, said Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and president of West Coast Trial Lawyers.
“There is a significant percentage of our population that…doubts that our system of justice is colorblind,” he said. “This type of verdict sends a message that no one is above the law, hate-crimes laws will be enforced and the feds will step in.”
Write to Cameron McWhirter at email@example.com and Sadie Gurman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8