UPDATED: 7:15 p.m. ET, Jan. 31, 2022
A Georgia judge on Monday rejected a proposed plea deal for the men who were convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery. The plea would have allowed the men to skip a hate crimes trial and serve most of their prison time in a federal prison instead of a state prison.
The DOJ released a statement defending the plea deal after it was rejected.
“We respect the court’s decision to not accept the sentencing terms of the proposed plea and to continue the hearing until Friday. The Justice Department takes seriously its obligation to confer with the Arbery family and their lawyers both pursuant to the Crime Victim Rights Act and out of respect for the victim,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “Before signing the proposed agreement reflecting the defendants’ confessions to federal hate crimes charges, the Civil Rights Division consulted with the victims’ attorneys. The Justice Department entered the plea agreement only after the victims’ attorneys informed me that the family was not opposed to it.”
According to the judge, the trial will move forward and potential jurors will be summoned next week.
Earlier in the day, it was reported that Ahmaud Arbery’s mother was devastated by the news that two of the three men convicted of killing her son reached plea agreements with federal prosecutors. The proposed deal would have allowed Gregory and Travis McMichael to serve their federal sentences concurrently with their state sentences. Both men would have also served most of their prison time in a federal prison instead of a state prison. Court documents did not mention a similar agreement for William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, the other man convicted in the murder of Arbery.
Lee Merit, the Arbery family’s lawyer says the proposed ‘back room’ deal was signed by the McMicheals to keep them from serving their time in a Georgia state prison. He also called federal prison a “country club,” and said the news has devastated Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones.
“The DOJ has gone behind my back to offer the men who murdered my son a deal to make their time in prison easier for them to serve,” said Jones in a statement posted by their lawyer. “I have made it clear at every possible moment that I do not agree to offer these men a plea deal of any kind. I have been completed betrayed by the DOJ Lawyers.”
Jury selection in the federal trial is back on schedule and is likely to begin on Feb. 7.
Lee Merit took to his social media to update the world on how the family is handling the sad situation. He also said the Arbery family hopes to express their dissent in court in front of a judge.
On Nov. 24, Gregory and Travis McMichael, as well as William “Roddie” Bryan were convicted of felony murder and other charges for the murder of Arbery in Feb. 2020. The 25-year-old Arbery was jogging through the Brunswick, GA neighborhood when the McMichales attempted a citizen’s arrest. Travis McMichael shot and kill Arbery, claiming self-defense in court.
Jan. 7, 2022, a judge handed down life in prison sentences for all three men convicted of murdering Arbery. 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.