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Ahmaud Arbery’s killers sentenced to life in prison for 25-year-old Black man’s murder

Ahmaud Arbery's killers sentenced to life in prison for 25-year-old Black man's murder
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Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Brian was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Bryan will not be eligible for parole under Georgia law until after he has served 30 years in prison because he has been convicted of serious violent crimes.

Before sentencing, Walmsley observed a minute’s silence, saying it “represents a fraction of the time Ahmaud Arbery was running” in the neighborhood outside Brunswick before he was murdered on February 23, 2020.

He called the killing a “really horrific and disturbing sight,” telling the court, “When I thought about it, I thought from many different angles. And I kept coming back to the horror that must have been in the mind of the young man running across Satella Shores.”

Arbery’s mother and father wept when the verdicts were made, according to an existing news reporter. The reporter added that Gregory McMichael leaned in his chair and appeared visibly shaken after his son was sentenced.

Earlier today, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones made a victim impact statement aiming for a tougher sentence, asking the judge to impose the maximum sentence.

“I made a promise to you the day I pushed you to rest,” she said, speaking directly to her late son. “I told you I love you, and somehow, I’ll do you justice.”

“Son, I love you today as much as I loved you the day you were born. Raising you has been the honor of my life, and I am so proud of you.”

The judge imposed an additional prison sentence for each of the defendants on other criminal charges. For the McMichaels, this extra time would be served concurrently with each other but consecutively with life imprisonment, Walmsley ruled. As a result, both face life in prison without parole plus 20 years.

For Brian, Walmsley imposed additional prison sentences of 10 years for his false imprisonment conviction and 5 years for his criminal attempt to commit a felony conviction. Unlike McMichaels’ sentence, Bryan’s additional sentence of 15 years will be suspended, resulting in a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

Walmsley said the ruling “generally does not provide for a closure,” although that may be what the Arbery family and the local community are seeking.

“Instead of shutting down, it is perhaps better to see today’s proceedings as an exercise in accountability,” the judge said. “We are all responsible for our actions. Today it is clear that everyone is accountable to the rule of law. Taking the law into your own hands is a dangerous endeavour.”

The sprawling legal saga isn’t over yet: The men’s lawyers said they would appeal the verdicts; A federal hate crime trial is scheduled for next month; Arbery’s mother filed a civil suit; The original plaintiff is facing charges in connection with her alleged handling of the case.

The defendants face decades in prison

On Friday, the judge heard both prosecutors and defense attorneys, who demanded leniency for their clients.

Attorney Robert Robin described Travis McMichael as a “loyal father” and “a hardworking worker” who believed he was doing the right thing for his community at the time of Arbery’s murder.

“Nothing in Travis McMichael’s life indicates that he is a danger to society now, or that he will be a danger to society 30 years from now after he has had time to think, act and grow,” Robin said. “When he’s in his sixties, older than me now, do we still need, we want someone like Travis McMichael behind bars?”

“The desire for revenge is strong and understandable in the family,” Robin said, adding that he would do the same if he was in their position. “But revenge is not the basis of our judgment in our criminal justice system – redemption is.”

Likewise, Greg McMichael’s attorney, Laura Hogg, requested parole for her client, arguing that he was a good man and that Arbery’s death was an unintended consequence of his actions.

“If life without parole is the punishment imposed only on the worst of the worst, it simply cannot be a punishment for someone who never intended that tragic outcome that happened on February 23 (2020),” she said. .

Attorney Kevin Gough distinguished Bryan, his client, from McMichaels. Gough argued that Brian didn’t know what was going on when he joined the hunt for Arbery, and he didn’t have a weapon with him. Gough said that after Arbery’s death, he collaborated with law enforcement.

“I think it is clear that while Mr. Brian has been arguing and continuing to dispute whether the things he did that day constituted crimes, he has never questioned the tragedy of this death,” Gough said.

The men told police that the men believed Arbery had committed a crime in the Satilla Shores neighborhood outside of Brunswick. The McMichaels were armed and chased, and Brian later joined the chase, scoring from his pickup truck. Brian’s video shows Travis McMichael getting out of his truck and confronting Arbery, who quarrels with Travis over a rifle before the younger McMichael shoots him.
The McMichael family alleged that they were arresting a citizen and were acting in self-defence. Brian said he was not involved in the killing. The authorities did not make immediate arrests. The men were so confident in their defence, a video of Bryan was released to the public in May 2020, according to criminal defense attorney Alan Tucker.
It helped spell undo. The 36-second video sparked outrage that quickly overlapped with protests over the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Richard Brooks in Atlanta and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

McMichaels was arrested two days after the video went viral. Brian was arrested two weeks after the McMichaels. The men pleaded their innocence.

Ahmed Arbery's mother expresses her gratitude on Thanksgiving morning saying
At the trial, Attorney General Linda Donekowski punched holes in self-defense lawsuits and citizen arrests, asserting that Travis McMichael admitted to never seeing Arbery armed and never hearing Arbery threaten anyone. She noted inconsistencies between his testimony and what he initially told investigators, leading him to testify that he was “mixed” and shocked when the police arrived.

Donikowski vividly wondered how Arbery could be an aggressor when he was unarmed on foot and repeatedly tried to dodge three men, two of them armed, in trucks.

A jury of nine white women, two white men, and a black man heard from 23 witnesses over the course of eight days. During 11 hours of deliberation, the jurors asked to watch two video clips.

Travis McMichael was convicted on all counts: one count of premeditated murder, four counts of murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony. His father was convicted on all counts except premeditated murder, and Brian was convicted on all counts except premeditated murder, one felony murder and one count of aggravated assault.

Defense lawyers say appeals are coming

Excluding the death penalty, each murder conviction carries a sentence of life imprisonment, with or without parole. The maximum penalties are 20 years for aggravated assault, 10 years for false imprisonment, and five years for attempted felony.

In addition to eligibility for parole, Walmsley will decide whether the men serve their sentences all at once, or in succession, which means they must finish each sentence before the next sentence begins.

After the rulings were handed down, Travis McMichael’s lawyers said their client was “sorry about what happened to Ahmaud Arbery,” and that they plan to appeal. One of her father’s lawyers, Laura Hogg, said she was “impressed” by the ruling and plans to appeal. Brian’s attorney, Kevin Gough, said he feels “the appeals courts will overturn this conviction.”
Race was a constant factor, and not just because of the defendants’ and Arbery’s skin color. Woolmsley expressed concern about the composition of the jury, and Gough and Hogg were accused of making insensitive remarks, with the latter accused of dehumanizing Arbery by raising his “long, filthy nails” during closing arguments.

During jury selection, Gough complained about the dearth of older white men with college degrees. Glenn County is 69% white and 27% black.

Race can be an element in the appeal process, with Gough repeatedly calling for wrongdoing because prominent black pastors accompanied the family into the courtroom and attended the “praying wall” outside the courtroom during the trial.

Donikowski claimed that Gough’s complaints about black priests in the courtroom led to the prayer wall.

“That’s a good lawyer out there because now he’s filing for wrongdoing on the basis of something he caused,” she said. Later, Donekowski added that Gough “did intentionally and strategically, I believe, what he did to try to introduce some potential errors into the case should the case be lost and it was brought on appeal.”

More court dates to come

The defendants maintained their innocence of federal hate crime charges, including interference with rights and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels family has also been accused of using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during and in connection with a violent crime; And Travis McMichael was charged with discharging a firearm.

Federal prosecutors say the defendants “used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race.”

Conviction of Ahmed Arbery's killers puts new focus on chief prosecutor

“We are deeply disappointed that the Department of Justice purchased the false narrative that was disseminated by the media and prosecutors,” said Travis McMichael’s defense team.

A federal trial is scheduled for February 7, one month after the two men were sentenced. Since they have remained in the Glenn County Detention Center since their arrest, there has been no federal hearing on the bonds. If they are convicted on weapons charges or interfering with human rights charges, they face additional penalties of up to life imprisonment with fines of up to six figures.
Federal prosecutors asked Arbery’s mother if she would consider a plea bargain for the men who killed her son, her attorney told CNN Friday. I refused.
Cooper Jones, Arbery’s mother, also filed a civil lawsuit targeting the men, police and prosecutors. Among the officials is former county attorney general Jackie Johnson, who lost her re-election bid in November 2020 after a decade of overseeing the five-county district.
After Arbery was shot, Gregory McMichael called Johnson, with whom he worked as an investigator until 2019, saying he needed advice. Glenn County police officers who responded to the site also contacted Johnson for advice. No one has been arrested for two and a half months.
In September, Johnson was indicted for violating her oath and obstructing law enforcement. She is accused of instructing officers not to arrest Travis McMichael, “contrary to the laws of said state” and “showing charity and tenderness to Greg McMichael during the investigation,” according to the indictment. She disqualified herself from the case the day after the murder, citing her connection to Gregory McMichael.
CNN’s attempts to reach Johnson were unsuccessful. She denied wrongdoing in an October 2020 debate during her re-election campaign, saying, “It’s a tragedy for the family. I’m sorry about what happened. I’m sorry the lie started and I couldn’t answer it.”

CNN’s Alta Spells, Devon M. Sayers, and Ryan Young contributed to this report.

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