UPDATED: 3:20 p.m. ET
A judge on Friday handed down life in prison sentences to each of Ahmuad Arbery‘s three convicted murderers for the brutal and brazen killing of the unarmed Black jogger in a case that centered on race and captivated the world’s attention.
Travis McMichael, 35, who pulled the trigger on the shotgun that killed Arbery in 2020, was sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison without the possibility of parole. His father, Gregory, 66, received the same sentence.
Their accomplice, friend and neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, was sentenced to life plus 20 years, after which he will be eligible for parole if the 52-year-old is alive at that time. Bryan’s conviction carries a mandatory minimum of 30 years served in prison before he would be eligible for parole.
Before sentencing the three men, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley called Arbery’s killing “callous” and cautioned against confusing closure from the sentencing with accountability. But Walmsley showed Bryan a semblance of mercy because “he demonstrated he had grave concerns” about the killing and cooperated with law enforcement, making his “situation a little bit different” from the McMichaels’.
“Today the defendants are being held accountable for their actions,” Walmsley said.
Arbery’s parents — Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery — were present for the sentencing. Along with their daughter, Jasmine, they each offered emotional victim impact statements hours before sentencing that called for the harshest penalties available to be brought against the defendants.
All three convicted murderers were facing life sentences for their roles in Ahmaud’s killing, which happened on Feb. 23, 2020, after the trio racially profiled, chased, trapped and shot the 25-year-old because they suspected without proof that he burglarized a nearby property.
The McMichaels and Bryan on Nov. 24, 2021, were each found guilty of nearly all the criminal counts for which they were charged in the killing. All three were indicted by a grand jury on malice and felony murder charges as well as aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Travis McMichael was found guilty on all counts. Gregory McMichael was found guilty on all but one of the charges and Bryan was found guilty on all but three of the charges. There were nine counts that the jury had to consider.
The guilty verdicts mean the mostly white jury didn’t buy the defendants’ claim that they were attempting to make a citizen’s arrest of Arbery when Travis McMichael shot him twice at close range with a shotgun. At the time he was killed, Arbery was unarmed and only wearing a t-shirt, shorts and running shoes.
After Friday’s sentencing, the convicted murderers still must answer to federal hate crime charges in another trial scheduled to begin next month in a case that will determine whether they went after Arbery because he was Black. Jury selection in that trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 7, according to the Associated Press.
Next month, the McMichaels and Bryan face a second trial, this time in U.S. District Court on federal hate crime charges. A judge has set jury selection to begin Feb. 7. Prosecutors will argue that the three men violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because he was Black.
Before the sentencing hearing, Crump and fellow civil rights attorney and Texas attorney general candidate Lee Merritt, who represents’ Cooper-Jones, are scheduled to accompany Ahmaud’s parents at a prayer breakfast at the courthouse Friday morning.
This is a developing story that will be updated following the sentencing with additional information as it becomes available.
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