LAGOS, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA)- The father and son convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery have both been given additional life sentences on federal hate crime charges.
U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood handed down the sentences against Travis McMichael, 36, and his father, Greg McMichael, 66, on Monday, reiterating the gravity of the February 2020 killing that shattered Brunswick community.
William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, who recorded cellphone video of the slaying, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
They were sentenced months after getting their first for murder — at a hearing that brought a close to more than two years of criminal proceedings.
The McMichaels were previously sentenced to life without parole in state court for Arbery’s murder and had asked the judge to divert them to a federal prison to serve their sentences, saying they were worried about their safety in the state prison system.
Bryan had sought to serve his federal sentence first. Wood declined all three requests.
The sentences imposed on Monday brought an end to the second trial against the men responsible for Arbery’s slaying, which along with the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky fueled a wave of protests across the country against the killings of unarmed Black people.
“You acted because of the colour of Mr Arbery’s skin,” Ms Wood said to Travis McMichael. “I do know that you received a fair trial. It is that kind of a trial that Ahmaud Arbery did not receive before he was shot and killed.”
Ahead of the sentencing, the trio had asked Ms Wood to consider the location where they would serve, with one lawyer raising concerns about Georgia’s dangerous state prison system, saying her client would be subject to “vigilante justice.”
Ms Wood maintained that she had “neither the authority nor the inclination” to send the three white men to federal prison instead of the Georgia prison system.
The trio were already serving life sentences after being convicted of murder in a state trial last November.
The Justice Department’s prosecution of this case and the court’s sentences today make clear that hate crimes have no place in our country, and that the Department will be unrelenting in our efforts to hold accountable those who perpetrate them,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a news release.
“Protecting civil rights and combatting white supremacist violence was a founding purpose of the Justice Department, and one that we will continue to pursue with the urgency it demands.”
In 2020, Mr Arbery went jogging through in the Satilla Shores neighbourhood near Brunswick when the McMichaels chased him down in their pickup truck, bearing arms.
Mr Bryan joined the chase in his pickup truck and recorded Travis McMichael firing a shotgun at Mr Arbery.
The McMichaels told the police they suspected Arbery was a burglar, but investigators determined he was unarmed and had committed no crimes.
“I’m very thankful,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told reporters outside the courthouse after all three sentences had been imposed.
“It’s been a long fight. I’m so thankful God gave us the strength to continue to fight.”
The hearings marked the first time the men involved in the deadly chase expressed any remorse to Arbery’s family.
Only Travis McMichael, who fired the fatal shots, chose to remain silent when given a chance to speak in court.
Greg McMichael told Arbery’s family their loss was “beyond description.”
“I’m sure my words mean very little to you, but I want to assure you I never wanted any of this to happen,” he said. “There was no malice in my heart or my son’s heart that day.”
Bryan said he was sorry.
“I never intended any harm to him, and I never would have played any role in what happened if I knew then what I know now,” Bryan said.