Father, son sentenced to life in prison for hate crimes in Ahmaud Arbery murder; neighbor gets 35 years

Greg McMichael, center, and his son, Travis McMichael, left, look at family members seated in the gallery when they walk into the courtroom for the reading of the jury's verdict of Greg McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan in the Glynn County Courthouse on November 24, 2021, in Brunswick, Georgia. Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, are charged with the February 2020 fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. | Photo by Stephen B. Morton-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge in Georgia has sentenced two men to life in prison and a third to 35 years for racially motivated federal hate crimes related to the 2020 murder of 25-year-old African American Ahmaud Arbery.

U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced 36-year-old Travis McMichael to life in prison plus 10 years, his father, 66-year-old Gregory McMichael, to life in prison plus seven years and 52-year-old William Bryan to 35 years in prison.

The three men had already been convicted of murder in state criminal court in 2021 and sentenced to life in prison. They were found guilty of multiple counts of violating Arbery's federal civil rights in a trial in February, including using violence to intimidate and interfere with Arbery, attempted kidnapping and confinement.

Travis McMichael was found guilty of using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a shotgun, which added 10 years to his life sentence. Meanwhile, Gregory McMichael was found guilty of using, carrying and brandishing a .357 Magnum revolver, adding seven years to his life sentence. 

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division described the murder as "a brutal and abhorrent racially-motivated hate crime."

"The tragic murder of Mr. Arbery reminds us that hate-fueled violence targeting Black people remains a modern-day threat in our country, and we must use every tool available to hold perpetrators accountable," stated Clarke on Monday.

"We hope that this sentencing ends one painful chapter for the family of Ahmaud Arbery, the Brunswick community and the nation as a whole."

Annie Polite puts on a button for Ahmaud Arbery outside the Glynn County Courthouse as the jury deliberates in the trial of the killers of Ahmaud Arbery on November 24, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. | Getty Images/Sean Rayford

On Feb. 23, 2020, 25-year-old Arbery was shot to death in Santilla Shores after being chased by two armed white men.

A widely-shared video of the incident showed Arbery being chased by a pickup truck as he jogged through a neighborhood in Satilla Shores, with Arbery briefly going off-camera, a gunshot in the background. 

Two more shots were heard as Arbery reappeared in the footage before falling to the ground. He had been unarmed and was dead by the time the police arrived at the crime scene.

The defense argued that Travis McMichael was trying to make a citizen's arrest of Arbery, suspecting him of burglary. The defense also claimed self-defense because Arbery was resisting McMichael's attempt at an arrest. 

Last November, a mostly white jury found the three men guilty of murder, as well as a few lesser charges, following 10 hours of deliberation.

"It's been a long fight. It's been a hard fight. But God is good," said Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, as reported by The Associated Press. She said her son "will now rest in peace."

In January, Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced the three men to life in prison.

"I think many people are seeking closure," he said. 

"The mother, the father, the community, and maybe even parts of the nation, but closure is hard to define and is a granular concept. It's seen differently by all depending on their perspective and the prism of your lives."

"When I thought about this, I thought from a lot of different angles, and I kept coming back to the terror that must have been in the mind of the young man running through Satilla Shores," the judge added. 

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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