A white father and son convicted of killing a black jogger have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A jury found Travis and Gregory McMichael and their neighbour, William Bryan, guilty of murdering Ahmaud Arbery in February 2020.
Bryan also received the maximum penalty of life, but was offered the possibility of parole in 30 years.
The judge said the McMichaels had not shown remorse or empathy for Arbery.
Judge Timothy Walmsley said he gave them severe sentences in part because of their "callous" words and actions captured on video.
Ahead of his verdict, the Arbery family called for the harshest possible punishments for the three men as a means of bringing "closure to a difficult chapter" in their lives.
The case has raised questions about racial justice in the US South.
Arbery, 25, a resident of Brunswick, Georgia, was out jogging in an adjacent, predominantly white neighbourhood when the trio chased and cornered him in pick-up trucks before the younger McMichael shot him during a struggle.
The defendants argued they acted in self-defence while attempting to make a citizen's arrest of a suspected burglar, but prosecutors argued race was a factor.
Gregory McMichael, 66, his son Travis, 35, and Bryan, 52, were found guilty in November of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony.
A federal judge rejected a plea agreement Monday that would have averted a hate crimes trial for the man convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.
Arbery’s parents had denounced the proposed deal for Travis McMichael, and the judge proceeded with plans to summon potential jurors next week.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones asked the judged to reject the deal and described the U.S. Justice Department’s decision to propose it as “disrespectful.”
Proposed plea agreements for father and son Greg and Travis McMichael were filed with the court late Sunday.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have proposed a plea agreement that would avert a hate crimes trial for the son and father convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. His parents denounced the deal on Monday, and the judge proceeded with plans to summon potential jurors next week.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, will ask the judge when the pretrial hearing resumes Monday afternoon to reject the deal, her lawyer, Lee Merritt, told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Brunswick.
The slain man’s father, Marcus Arbery, told reporters he’s “mad as hell” over the deal, which Merritt said could enable Travis and Greg McMichael to spend the first 30 years of their life sentences in federal prison, rather than state prison where conditions are tougher.
“Ahmaud is a kid you cannot replace,” Arbery said. “He was killed racially and we want 100% justice, not no half justice.”
Cooper-Jones described the U.S. Justice Department’s decision to propose the plea deal despite her objections as “disrespectful.”
“I fought so hard to get these guys in the state prison,” she said. “I told them very, very adamantly that I wanted them to go to state prison and do their time. ... Then I got up this morning and found out they had accepted this ridiculous plea.”
U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood continued preparations to summon summoning the first 50 potential jurors to the courthouse on Feb. 7 for questioning.
The proposed plea agreements were filed with the court late Sunday. There was no mention of a deal with their co-defendant, William “Roddie” Bryan. No details were disclosed in court Monday morning. Federal prosecutors didn’t mention the deals in the court’s morning session.
Federal deals would not affect state murder convictions in Arbery’s killing. All three men were sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 7 after a trial last fall.
The hate crime charges accuse McMichaels and Bryan of violating the 25-year-old Black man’s civil rights by chasing him through their neighborhood in coastal Georgia on Feb. 23, 2020. The McMichaels armed themselves and pursued Arbery in one pickup truck while Bryan joined the chase in another and recorded video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun.
The man who initiated the deadly chase that ended in the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery has reversed course and decided to plead not guilty to a federal hate crime in the 2020 killing of the unarmed Black man, according to a legal filing late Thursday.
Greg McMichael’s decision came days after a U.S. District Court judge rejected terms of a plea deal that he and his son, Travis McMichael, had negotiated with prosecutors. That deal was met with passionate objections by Arbery’s parents. McMichael’s defense attorney said in a legal notice filed jointly with prosecutors that McMichael now plans to stand trial for a second time in Arbery’s death.
The McMichaels and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, were convicted of murder in a Georgia state court last fall and sentenced to life in prison. Separate from that case, the three white men also were indicted in U.S. District Court on charges that they violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because he was Black.
The McMichaels armed themselves and chased Arbery in a pickup truck after spotting the 25-year-old man running past their home just outside the port city of Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun.
Travis McMichael was scheduled for a plea hearing Friday morning to announce whether he would move forward with a guilty plea in the federal case. Jury selection in that case is set to begin Monday.
Both men had planned to plead guilty to a hate crime charge earlier this week after prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed on a 30-year sentence that would include a request to transfer the McMichaels from Georgia’s state prison system to federal custody. The deal would have required the McMichaels to admit to racist motives and forfeit the right to appeal their federal sentence.
U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood rejected the deal Monday after Arbery’s parents objected, arguing conditions in federal prison wouldn’t be as harsh. Wood said she ultimately denied the deal because it would have locked her into a specific sentence.
The judge told the men that if they still decided to plead guilty she would not guarantee their sentence.
Prosecutors asked the judge to approve the plea deals despite the objections from Arbery’s family. Prosecutor Tara Lyons said that attorneys for Arbery’s parents told the U.S. Justice Department that the family wouldn’t object to the plea deals.
Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s mother, said the slain man’s family had previously rejected the same terms and “no longer wanted to engage” prosecutors, who “took that as a deferral.”
During the murder trial in state court, defense attorneys argued the McMichaels were justified in pursuing Arbery because they had a reasonable suspicion that he had committed crimes in their neighborhood. Travis McMichael testified that he opened fire with his shotgun after Arbery attacked him with fists and tried to grab the weapon.