A jury in Brunswick, Ga., unanimously found defendants Travis McMichael, his father Greg McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan guilty on all counts in a federal hate crimes trial.
In less than a day the jury found all three men guilty. This case centered around the question of whether or not race was a stimulating influence in why the three defendants chased, shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery as he ran through their Georgia coastal neighborhood February 2020.
The defendants were charged with violating Arbery’s civil rights, kid-napping, and for the Mc-Michaels, an additional charge of use of a firearm to commit a crime. All three men were found guilty of murdering Arbery in a state trial last year and sentenced to life in prison.
The federal charges carry a maximum life sentence. The defendants will have 14 days to file appeals.
To find them guilty on a hate crimes charge, federal prosecutors had to prove to the jury that the defendants targeted Arbery because he was Black. Last week, witnesses described racist exchanges with Greg and Travis McMichael, and prosecutors found racist and violent content from the defendants’ digital footprints.
“If Ahmaud was another white person jogging, would this have happened in the way that it did? If Ahmaud hadn’t been using public streets, would this have happened the way it did?” prosecutor Christopher Perras asked in the government’s closing arguments on Monday.
Perras said they acted on racial assumptions, racial resentment and racial anger that had been building for years.
“They didn’t need to talk about it. They knew what they were going to do,” Perras told jurors. “They grabbed their guns and went after him.”
“Would this have happened to a white guy? Yes,” said Amy Copeland, attorney for Travis McMichael. She encouraged jurors to consider the evidence that wasn’t presented: The government never called any Black witnesses to share stories of her client’s racism, she argued, and there was no evidence that Travis McMichael belonged to any white supremacist groups. Copeland declined to call any witnesses to testify for Travis McMichael during the trial.
None of the attorneys disputed any of the racism evidenced in their clients’ digital footprints, and even personally disavowed these viewpoints, while maintaining that the defendants had legitimate reasons to pursue Arbery, after recognizing him as the same man seen on surveillance cameras inside a home construction site at night.
Pete Theodocion, Bryan’s attorney, wanted to show the differences between his client Travis McMichael and his father Greg McMichael, stating to jurors that Bryan “wasn’t trying to be Johnny Law-Enforcement,” but “his instinct told him people don’t get chased like that unless they’ve done something wrong, and in some cases very wrong.”
“These defendants saw Ahmaud as less than human, as less than an animal,” prosecutor Lyons told jurors in her final rebuttal before Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sent the jurors out to deliberate on Monday afternoon. Lyons emphasized that they showed no remorse as Arbery was bleeding in the street.
“I think the DOJ [Department of Justice] presented its case well,” Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told reporters outside the courthouse on Monday.
“I’m very emotional. This has been very draining, and I’m thankful this is almost over,” she said, noting that she was hopeful for a verdict in time for the second anniversary of her son’s death this Wednesday.
Feb. 23 is now officially known as Ahmaud Arbery Day in the state of Georgia