3 Men Convicted of Murdering Ahmaud Arbery Sentenced to Life in Prison, 2 Without the Possibility of Parole

A Georgia jury found Gregory McMichael, 66, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan, 52, guilty in late November of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, who was chased down and shot to death after he had gone for a jog.

Three white men convicted of murdering Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced to life in prison Friday. 

A Georgia jury found Gregory McMichael, 66, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan, 52, guilty in late November of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony.

Under state law, the sole issue before Glynn County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley at Friday's sentencing hearing was whether any of the three men could petition for parole. The McMichaels were sentenced to life, plus 20 years, without the possibility of parole.

Bryan was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving 30 years, meaning he would be 82 before he could file for parole.

"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 said before announcing the sentences. He first observed a minute of silence for the slain young man.

"This was a killing. It was callous," the judge said. "We are all accountable for our own actions." 

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked for sentences of life without parole for the McMichaels, and the possibility of parole for Bryan. All deserved the state's mandatory life sentences for having "no empathy for the trapped and terrified Ahmaud Arbery," she said.

Arbery, who was unarmed, was chased down and shot to death by Travis McMichael, who fired three shotgun rounds at the 25-year-old man who was jogging through a suburban neighborhood in February 2020.

The three men said they thought Arbery was responsible for burglaries in their area and were trying to conduct a citizen's arrest when Arbery tried to grab Travis McMichael's shotgun. 

“This wasn’t a case of mistaken identity or mistaken fact. They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community," Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told the court Friday. "They chose to treat him differently than other people who frequently visited their community. And when they couldn’t sufficiently scare or intimidate him, they killed him.”

His sister told the judge of Arbery's sense of of humor. He was a positive thinker with a big personality, she said. Her brother's dark skin "glistened in the sunlight" and made him a target to his killers, she said.

“These are the qualities that made these men assume that Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal and chase them with guns drawn. To me, those qualities reflect a young man full of life and energy who looked like me and the people I loved," said Jasmine Arbery.

After the three men were convicted on the day before Thanksgiving, a crowd gathered outside the courthouse erupted in joy. The contentious trial, marked by comments from defense lawyers that many considered racist, was nationally televised.

Civil rights leaders including the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson attended the trial and sat with the family inside the courtroom. At one point during the trial, a defense attorney objected to them being in court.

"We don't want any more Black pastors coming in here, or any Jesse Jackson or whoever was in here earlier this week," lawyer Kevin Gough, who represented Bryan, said in November. His remark drew sharp rebukes from Sharpton and Arbery's family, as well as many others, including the trial judge, who called Gough's statements "reprehensible."

The McMichaels grabbed their guns and got into a pickup truck to chase Arbery after seeing him running in their neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. Fellow resident Bryan joined the chase and took cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery, who was seen staggering and then collapsing in the road.

There were no arrests in the case for 74 days, after state investigators took control from local officials. The killing went largely unnoticed until Bryan's cellphone video was leaked on social media. A national uproar ensued against a backdrop of Black Lives Matter protests over the deaths of George Floyd and others.

Defense attorneys have said they will appeal their clients' convictions.

Next month, the men face a second trial, this one in federal court, on charges they violated Arbery's civil rights and targeted him because he was Black. They have pleaded not guilty to those counts.

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