Arbery's killers to be sentenced in August for hate crimes
The white men convicted of hate crimes for chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery as he ran in their Georgia neighborhood have been scheduled for sentencing this summer in federal court.
U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood scheduled Aug. 1 sentencing hearings for all three men. Father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, each face a maximum penalty of life in prison in connection with the 2020 death of the 25-year-old Black man.
It’s possible the sentencing date could change. Prosecutors asked the judge in a legal filing Tuesday to postpone the hearings until later in August.
The McMichaels and Bryan are already serving life sentences in Georgia after being convicted of murder in a state court last fall. The trio stood trial a second time in federal court, where they were found guilty in February of committing hate crimes after a jury concluded Arbery’s killing was motivated by race.
The McMichaels armed themselves and used a pickup truck to chase Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020, after spotting him running in their neighborhood just outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick. Bryan joined the pursuit and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun.
The McMichaels told investigators they suspected Arbery was a burglar and were trying to detain him for police. Travis McMichael said he opened fire in self-defense as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for his shotgun.
No arrests were made until more than two months after the killing, when the graphic cellphone video leaked online and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local police. Arbery’s death became part of a broader reckoning on racial injustice in the criminal legal system after a string of fatal encounters between Black people and police.
While the life sentences handed down in the state’s murder case made the hate crimes trial that followed largely symbolic, federal prosecutors used the second trial to reveal how all three defendants had espoused racist views.
To back the hate crime charges, prosecutors showed the jury roughly two dozen text messages and social media posts showing Travis McMichael and Bryan repeatedly using racial slurs in text messages and social media posts.
Defense attorneys contended the McMichaels and Bryan didn’t chase and kill Arbery because of his race, but acted on their earnest, though erroneous, suspicion that Arbery had committed crimes in their neighborhood.
For a deeper exploration of Ahmaud Arbery’s story, listen to WABE’s podcast, “Buried Truths.” Hosted by journalist, professor, and Pulitzer-prize-winning author Hank Klibanoff, season three of “Buried Truths” explores the Arbery murder and its direct ties to racially motivated murders of the past in Georgia.