Killers of Ahmaud Arbery sentenced on federal hate crime charges

Octavio Jones/Pool Photo via AP

UPDATE: Roddie Bryan received an additional 35 years to be served concurrently with his original sentence. Original article begins below.

Although there will still be appeals to be handled in a process that could stretch on for several more years, the saga of the death of Ahmaud Arbery and the three men convicted of murdering him reached the second phase of sentencing today. In addition to their previous murder convictions on state charges, Greg and Travis McMichael, along with William “Roddie” Bryan, were convicted on federal hate crime charges this year and faced sentencing today. First up was Travis McMichael, the person who actually fired the weapon that ended Arbery’s life. The judge rejected nearly every request from the defense in this phase of the proceedings and sentenced the younger McMichael to life in prison plus ten years. A few hours later, his father Greg was given the same sentence. Roddie Bryan is being sentenced last. Updates will be provided as appropriate. (NBC News)

The father and son convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery were both sentenced to life in prison Monday on federal hate crime charges.

A judge also required that Travis McMichael, 36, and Greg McMichael, 66, serve their sentences in state prison, not federal prison as had been requested by their attorneys.

Before handing down the sentence to Travis McMichael, U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood said the younger McMichael had received a fair trial, “the kind of trial that Ahmaud Arbery did not receive before he was shot and killed.”

“You killed a man on Feb. 23, 2020. The events depicted in the video, they are seared in the annals of this court and no doubt in your mind forever,” she said.

The judge in this case has lined up with the prosecution throughout most of the trial and there seemed little doubt that the men would wind up getting the maximum sentences as requested by both state and federal prosecutors. One question was whether or not the McMichaels’ request to be sent to a federal prison rather than a state prison would be granted. They claimed that they had received death threats and would not survive in state prison. That request was also denied.

Before the state trial began, I expressed doubts as to whether or not the court would be able to seat a jury where every juror would vote to convict these men, but it turned out that it was never an issue. I remain unsure how Roddie Bryan wound up taking a murder charge since he was following in a different vehicle and filming the event when Arbery was killed. That may well come up in the appeals process.

I have never been a fan of so-called “hate crimes” because they are essentially thought crimes, but our court system seems to have evolved to allow this. But in the case of these three convicts, it likely won’t make much difference. They are all already serving life sentences, so another life sentence on top of that won’t have much impact unless one of their convictions is overturned on appeal. If one of the state charges is overturned, it will be interesting to see how the federal hate crime charge would hold up. But it will no doubt be a long time before we cross that bridge.

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