The 36-year-old man who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery was sentenced Monday to life plus 10 years in prison on federal hate crime charges.
A judge also required that Travis McMichael serve his sentence in state prison, not federal prison as had been requested by his attorney.
The sentencing of McMichael is the first of three back-to-back for the men involved in the attack.
McMichael’s father, Greg McMichael, 66, and neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, also are scheduled to be sentenced Monday.
The men, who are all white, were found guilty in February on federal hate crimes charges in the killing of Arbery, a Black man who was running in their neighborhood when the defendants confronted him in February 2020. The three men were convicted of all of the federal charges against them, including hate crimes, attempted kidnapping and the use of a firearm to commit a crime.
The federal hate crimes trial centered on the history of the three men and their racial bias, a motive that prosecutors in the state case largely avoided, even though Arbery’s killing gained national attention as the United States was reckoning with systemic institutional racism and bias in policing.
The McMichaels and Bryan chased Arbery, 25, through their coastal Georgia neighborhood in trucks. The men, who spotted Arbery running by their homes, cornered him and Travis McMichael fatally shot him with a shotgun. Bryan filmed the fatal encounter on his cellphone.
The men were arrested months after the shooting, following the release of Bryan’s phone video and growing national attention. The case was then taken over by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Arbery’s family and civil rights leaders have likened his death to a modern-day lynching.
The McMichaels attempted to plead guilty to the hate crime charges before trial, but the plea agreement was rejected by the judge after Arbery’s parents protested that the men would be able serve their time in federal prison instead of state.
Federal prosecutors worked to establish that Arbery’s murder was driven by the men’s strong prejudices against Black people. Witnesses included an FBI analyst who went through the men’s social media history and neighbors and former co-workers of the McMichaels, who all testified that the father and son made troubling racist jokes, rants and statements and were open about their negative feelings toward Black people.
The defense said the messages and social media posts were taken out of context and that even though they had said troubling things, they insisted the men were not driven by their racial bias to pursue and kill Arbery.
This month, Greg McMichael’s attorney asked the judge not to impose a life sentence, although he said his client still deserves “a substantial period of incarceration,” The Associated Press reported. McMichael’s defense team also asked the judge for a transfer to federal prison, where he could avoid serving time for the murder in Georgia’s state prison system.
Daniella Silva is a reporter for NBC News, focusing on education and how laws, policies and practices affect students and teachers. She also writes about immigration.
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