Greg McMichael and his son Travis McMichael were on Monday sentenced to life in prison for federal hate crimes in the February 2020 shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery. According to CNN, U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood handed the McMichaels the life sentences after they were found guilty of interference with rights – which is a hate crime – as well as attempted kidnapping and weapon use charges.
William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who was also convicted in the Black man’s killing, received a 35-year prison sentence. Bryan’s sentence will run concurrently with his state sentence. The McMichaels and Bryan’s convictions on Monday come after a state court handed them life sentences for Arbery’s killing in January.
“I’m very relieved, I’m glad, I’m thankful,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said after the verdict. “I want to say thank you to each and every one of you who stood with us through this long process.”
A jury in February found the three men guilty of the federal charges after they sided with the prosecutor’s argument that the accused men’s attack on Arbery was borne out of racial animus.
“The Justice Department’s prosecution of this case and the court’s sentences today make clear that hate crimes have no place in our country, and that the Department will be unrelenting in our efforts to hold accountable those who perpetrate them,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“Protecting civil rights and combating white supremacist violence was a founding purpose of the Justice Department, and one that we will continue to pursue with the urgency it demands.”
Arbery, 25, was shot and killed on February 23, 2020, after he was confronted by Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, while he was jogging outside Brunswick in Georgia. The older McMichael, who is a retired cop, had told officers that they had chased Arbery in a truck after he thought Arbery looked like a suspect who had been connected to a number of burglaries in the Brunswick area.
The third defendant, Bryan, also followed Arbery in a different truck and filmed the fatal encounter. The three White men were later arrested and charged in connection with the killing.
The McMichaels each received an additional 20-year prison sentence for the attempted kidnapping charges. Those sentences will run concurrently with their state convictions, CNN reported. Travis McMichael was also sentenced to 10 years in prison for the weapons charge while his father received a 7-year sentence for the same charge. Those sentences will also run concurrently.
Prior to his sentencing, Gregory McMichael addressed Arbery’s family, telling them that the “loss” they’ve “endured is beyond description. There’s no words for it.”
“I’m sure that my words mean little to you, but I wanted to assure you I never wanted any of this to happen. There was no malice in my heart or my son’s heart that day,” he said.
The convicted man also rendered an apology to his wife and son. “I should have never put him in that,” he added. “Finally, I pray that God’s peace will come to the Arbery family and this community.”
But Arbery’s mother told CNN that she “did not forgive him [Gregory McMichael] for what he did” even though she accepted his apology. Cooper-Jones suggested the time he has spent in prison caused him to reflect on his actions.
“He’s come to terms with he made a very bad decision, and he wanted to say he was sorry,” she said. “So I did accept it, but as far as forgiving, I haven’t forgave him.”
Bryan also rendered an apology. But Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr. said the timing of the apology was “bad.”
“When this first happened, he should have shown some kind of remorse then,” Arbery said. “When you get caught up and it’s looking bad for you, that’s when you’re trying to apologize. That’s a bad time to apologize. He should have did that day one.”
The McMichaels had appealed to the court to allow them to serve their sentences in federal prison. But the judge dismissed their request.