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VIDEO: 3 men sentenced for hate crimes in Arbery’s murder
Father, son receive 2nd life terms; Bryan gets 35 years
Arbery sentencing
Marcus Arbery, center, stands by Rev. Jesse Jackson, right, and gives a thumbs up following the federal sentencing of Travis McMicheal at the federal courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., Monday Aug. 9, 2022. Photo by Lewis Levine

BRUNSWICK — The mother of a young Black man shot and killed in a Brunswick area neighborhood as three white men chased him two years ago said she feels each shot fired at her son “every day.”

In U.S. District Court on Monday, Wanda Cooper- Jones, Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, said it was unfair her son was killed. Three men — Travis Mc-Michael, his father Gregory McMichael and William Bryan — were tried and convicted in Glynn County Superior Court last year of Arbery’s murder and were convicted of a hate crime in federal court earlier this year.

All three men received their federal sentences from U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in separate hearings Monday. Travis McMichael received life plus 10 years following the February 23, 2020, slaying of Arbery, a young Black man McMichael, his father and Bryan chased through a Brunswick area neighborhood.

McMichael shot Arbery three times and was convicted of murder in Glynn County Superior Court in November 2021. All three were sentenced to life in prison.

In a separate sentencing hearing Monday, Judge Wood handed a term of life plus seven years to Gregory McMichael. Bryan received a sentence of 35 years in prison Monday afternoon.

Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, said the men showed no mercy toward his son.

“You killed him because he was a Black man, and you hate Black people,” he said. “You deserve no mercy.”

Amy Lee Copeland, Travis McMichael’s attorney, filed documents with the court asking that her client be placed in federal prison. She reported her client has received several death threats and claims the state prison system can’t ensure her client’s life.

Judge Wood said she didn’t have the authority to order the state to relinquish custody of Travis McMichael to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and added that she was not inclined to do so in this case. A similar request made by Gregory McMichael’s attorney was also denied.

All three men are set to be transferred to the state prison system. They were being held in Glynn County Jail pending Monday’s sentencing.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing Arbery’s dad, said in a statement: “This sentence sends a message that vigilantes cannot hunt down and kill an innocent Black man, putting themselves in the roles of police, judge and executioner, without paying a high price — spending the rest of their lives in prison. Hate will not prevail.”

Cooper-Jones said Travis McMichael didn’t address the family, but his father and Bryan did offer apologies. She said she accepts their apologies but does not forgive their actions. Her attorney, Lee Merritt, reminded everyone of the words Gregory McMichael said after killing Arbery.

“While he was speaking, I remembered his statements from jail: ‘No good deed goes unpunished,’” Merritt said. “This is what he was recorded saying from jail as he was describing the murder of Ahmaud.”

Cooper-Jones said she would like to see court proceedings against former Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson and Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill.

Johnson recused herself from the murder case because Gregory McMichael had formerly worked as an investigator for her office. The case was sent to Barnhill, who wrote a statement saying he saw no reason to pursue the matter. Barnhill later recused himself when it was discovered that his son also worked with Johnson and Gregory McMichael.

Evidence presented by the prosecutors during the federal trial in February highlighted the hatred and racism the three defendants felt toward African Americans.

The McMichaels and Bryan each were convicted of one count of using force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Ahmaud Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race.

The three men were also found guilty of attempted kidnapping. Travis McMichael was found guilty of using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a Remington shotgun in the course of the hate crime, and Gregory McMichael was found guilty of using, carrying and brandishing a .357 Magnum revolver.

The three men had been sentenced to life after a jury convicted the trio on Nov. 24, 2021, in Glynn County Superior Court.

Travis McMichael was found guilty on all nine counts: one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony.

Gregory McMichael was found not guilty of malice murder but guilty on all other charges. Bryan was found not guilty of malice murder, one count of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault, but found guilty on all other charges.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced the three to life in prison. The McMichaels were both sentenced to life plus 20 years, without the possibility of parole. Bryan was sentenced to life, with the possibility of parole after serving 30 years.

It was Bryan who captured the last few minutes of Arbery’s life on video. The video was released and went viral, with the men believing it would prove their innocence. During the state criminal trial, the men said they were acting in self-defense and thought Arbery had committed a crime, but Arbery had nothing in his possession. He was also unarmed.

Atlantic Judicial District Attorney Tom Durden was the third district attorney involved in the case after the prior two recused themselves. Durden accepted the GBI’s help on May 5, 2020, and the McMichaels were arrested two days later. A few weeks after that, they executed a warrant for Bryan, who turned himself in.

On Sept. 2, 2021, State Attorney General Chris Carr announced the indictment of Johnson on charges of violation of oath of a public officer and obstruction of a police officer as it related to the Arbery case.

Lewis Levine contributed to this report.

Watch the video below. 

VIDEO: McMichaels sentencing

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