BRUNSWICK, GA — The three white men who killed Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty of federal hate crimes, a jury determined Tuesday.
William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. and his neighbors, father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, were convicted by a federal jury of kidnapping and violating Arbery’s rights because of his race when they chased, corralled and killed him on Feb. 23, 2020, according to reports. The McMichaels also were convicted of using weapons while committing the crimes.
All three men had been convicted on murder charges by a Glynn County jury in a state trial in November for the death of the 25-year-old Black man, and all three face life in prison.
During the federal trial, which lasted just over a week, the jury heard testimony that included evidence that the three men had a history of using racial slurs in reference to African Americans. The jurors deliberated for less than four hours before announcing their conclusion.
The verdicts come a day before the two-year anniversary of when Arbery was killed, and on Wednesday the state of Georgia will recognize “Ahmaud Arbery Day.” The three said they set out to chase Arbery on that day because they assumed he had committed a crime and were going to make a citizen’s arrest.
After the federal trial, Arbery’s mother and father, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery, celebrated a victory for their son and said the verdicts should act as a message for others.
“If they make the same driveway decisions the McMichaels made, then they’ll be going to the same place as them,” Cooper-Jones said.
Arbery smiled and said, “Justice for Ahmaud,” and echoed Cooper-Jones’ warning to those who might choose to act upon prejudiced, racist or hateful sentiments.
“If they think like the McMichaels, the same thing is going to happen to them,” he said.
But Cooper-Jones took a beat from her celebratory words to admonish the federal prosecutors who nearly struck a plea deal with Travis and Gregory McMichael to allow them to serve out their respective federal sentences at the same time as their state life prison terms.
“What we got today, we wouldn’t have gotten today if it wasn’t for the fight of the family,” she said. “What the DOJ did today, they were made to do today. I told the DOJ they were prosecutors, but the one thing they didn’t have was a son lying in a cold grave. That wasn’t justice.”
As a result of their convictions on murder and attempted murder charges, Travis and Gregory McMichael were given life sentences plus an additional 20 years each, while Bryan will have the chance for parole after 30 years.