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Ahmaud Arbery news: Mother ‘very thankful’ as Travis and Gregory McMichael get life without parole

Court sentences Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William ‘Roddie’ Bryan Jr to life

Megan Sheets ,Graeme Massie,Adam Withnall,Gino Spocchia
Saturday 08 January 2022 19:06 GMT
Judge sentences Gregory and Travis McMichael to life for murder of Ahmaud Arbery

Gregory and Travis McMichael, white father and son convicted of murdering Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery, have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 20 years.

A judge handed down the sentences in Glynn County, Georgia, on Friday afternoon. The McMichaels’ neighbour and co-defendant William “Roddie” Bryan Jr was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 30 years served.

The sentence came nearly two years after the three men chased Arbery, who was unarmed, through a neighbourhood in their trucks before shooting him in February 2020. The attack was captured in footage filmed by Bryan Jr.

All three men stood trial in November on nine charges: one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Travis McMichael was convicted of and received the top sentence for malice murder, while Gregory McMichael and Bryan Jr received their top sentences for felony murder.


Victim impact statement from Arbery’s father

Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr, was first to deliver a victim impact statement.

Referencing Travis McMichael, he said: “The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every single day next to his father. I will never get the chance to sit next to my son again.”

He said he’s replayed Arbery’s “execution” in his mind “over and over”.

“My heart is broken and always will be broken. If I could, I’d trade places with Ahmaud in a heartbeat,” he said.

“I’m standing here to do what he can’t: to fight for him, to fight for his legacy.

“More than anything else, you should know who my boy was.”

He concluded: “These killers will spend the rest of their lives remembering what they did. And they should, from behind bars.”

Megan Sheets7 January 2022 16:19

Arbery’s mother addresses the court

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, was already in tears when she stepped up to the podium to deliver her victim impact statement.

She began by addressing her son directly: “I love you as much today as I did the day you were born. Raising you was the honour of my life and I’m very proud of you.”

To the judge she said: “Your honour, these men have chose to lie, they chose to target my son, and when they couldn’t intimidate him, they killed him.

“These men deserve the maximum sentence for their crimes. Ahmaud never said a word to them, he never threatened them, he just wanted them to leave him alone.

“Please give all three defendants the maximum punishment in court, which I do believe is life behind bars without the possibility of parole.”

Megan Sheets7 January 2022 16:27

State presents sentencing requests

After victim impact statements, Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked the court to sentence Travis and Gregory McMichael to life in prison without parole, and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr to life with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

With regards to the McMichaels, Ms Dunikoski said they showed a “pattern of vigilanteism” leading up to Arbery’s murder.

Citing the father’s experience in law enforcement and the son’s service in the US Coast Guard, Ms Dunikoski said: “They should have known better” and waited for authorities to arrive instead of pursuing Arbery themselves.

“When you take a person’s life, it can’t be undone. It can’t be taken back. You don’t get a do-over,” she said.

With regards to Bryan Jr, she said he “contributed” to Arbery’s murder and thus should be sentenced to life with parole followed by 15 years of probation.

Megan Sheets7 January 2022 16:36

Travis McMichael’s attorney requests

Travis McMichael’s attorney Robert Rubin asked the judge not to impose the strictest possible sentence because he claimed the defendant shot Arbery in self-defense.

He said that while Travis McMichael’s actions were “thoughtless”, they do not show that his “soul was so blackened to deserve a sentence of life in prison without parole”.

Mr Rubin asked that Travis McMichael be given “the possibility of redemption” with a sentence of life with parole.

He said doing so would give the defendant a chance to be a “force for good”.

Megan Sheets7 January 2022 16:52

Court on break for lunch

The court is now on a lunch break until 1pm EST.

After the break, the attorneys for Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr will make their sentencing requests.

Megan Sheets7 January 2022 16:55

RECAP: What happened to Arbery?

Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was described by friends and family as an avid athlete and hip-hop fan. On 23 February, 2020 the former linebacker for the Brunswick High School Pirates, who had once dreamed of playing pro football, set off for a jog through the neighbourhood of Satilla Shores, near Brunswick, Georgia.

As he continued on his run, he was spotted by Gregory McMichael, 67, Travis McMichael, his son, 35, and their neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, who mistakenly believed Mr Arbery was responsible for a number of break-ins in the area, including in a vacant home under construction. The trio, all white men, began pursuing Mr Arbery in their trucks, with the McMichaels armed with a pistol and a shotgun, and Bryan recording a video of the chase on a cellphone.

Eventually, they tried to corner the jogger using the vehicles. Travis McMichael and Ahmaud Arbery got into a physical confrontation, and McMichael shot him three times, killing him.

The Independent’s Josh Marcus has more:

Who is Ahmaud Arbery, the Black man whose killers were found guilty of murder?

Mr Arbery’s death was one of a number of killings which inspired 2020’s national racial reckoning and civil rights protests

Megan Sheets7 January 2022 17:30

Court back in session

The sentencing hearing has resumed after a lunch break.

Gregory McMichael’s lawyer, Laura Hogue, is now making an argument to merge the charges against him.

Watch along live:

Watch live as Ahmaud Arbery killers sentenced for his murder
Megan Sheets7 January 2022 18:08

Gregory McMichael’s attorney calls him a ‘good man'

In arguing against life without parole for Gregory McMichael, attorney Laura Hogue denied the prosecutor’s assertion that her client has not shown remorse, saying he has been unable to express sympathy to Arbery’s family because of the upcoming charges he still faces in federal court.

Ms Hogue claimed he is a “good person” who has done “thousands and thousands of big and little acts of kindness” throughout his life and “served his community” as a police officer in the years before he murdered the Black man.

“Greg McMichael is a good man. He is not a perfect person. None of us are. He has lived a good life, a life of service and that has to count for something,” she said.

Megan Sheets7 January 2022 18:36

Bryan Jr’s attorney argues for lower sentence

William “Roddie” Bryan Jr’s lawyer Kevin Gough is now making his case to have his client receive the lowest sentence possible.

Repeating his tune throughout the trial, Mr Gough asserted that Bryan Jr was not a party to the killing and is not a vigilante, he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He noted that Bryan Jr did not have a gun with him on the day of the pursuit, saying it shows he had no intention to kill.

In a jarring remark, Mr Gough suggested that Arbery may still be alive if Bryan Jr had been successful in striking Arbery with his car during the pursuit that preceded the hearing.

Mr Gough also claimed that he did not receive the state’s notice about its intent to seek a sentence of life without parole.

Megan Sheets7 January 2022 18:55

Defendants’ wife and mother is not at hearing

Leigh McMichael, the wife of Gregory and mother of Travis, is not in attendance at Friday’s sentencing hearing.

Asked why she wasn’t there, a defence investigator said Ms McMichael “couldn’t handle it”, according to a pool reporter.

Travis McMichael is seen in court at his sentencing on 7 January 2022
Travis McMichael is seen in court at his sentencing on 7 January 2022 (AP)
Megan Sheets7 January 2022 19:15

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