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Men found guilty of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery are sentenced to life imprisonment;  no parole for father, son

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Men found guilty of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery are sentenced to life imprisonment; no parole for father, son

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“They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community.”

Travis McMichael, left, speaks with his lawyer Bob Rubin, right, during the sentencing of his father Greg McMichael and his neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan on January 7, 2022 in Brunswick, Georgia.
Stephen B. Morton-Pool / Getty Images

BRUNSWICK, Ga (AP) – Three white men who hunted down and killed Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced to life in prison on Friday, with a judge denying parole to the father and son who armed themselves and launched the murderous pursuit a 25- year-old black man.

Murder carries a mandatory life sentence under Georgian law, unless prosecutors seek the death penalty, which they opted for Arbery’s murder against. For Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley, the key decision was to grant Greg and Travis McMichael, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, a possible chance for parole.

The judge ordered the two McMichaels to serve a life sentence without parole. Bryan was given a chance at parole, but must first serve at least 30 years in prison.

Arbery’s family on Friday asked a judge to show no mercy in sentencing three men.

During the sentencing hearing, Arbery’s sister recalled her brother’s humor, describing him as a positive thinker with a great personality. She told the judge that her brother had “sun-glistening” dark skin, thick, curly hair and an athletic build, factors that made him a target for chasing men.

“These are the qualities that made these men assume that Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal and pursue them with guns. To me, these qualities reflected a young man full of life and energy who looked like me and the people I loved, ”said Jasmine Arbery.

Arbery’s mother asked for the maximum sentence, saying she suffered intense personal loss made worse by a trial where the men’s defense was that Arbery made bad choices which led to his death.

“It was not a mistaken identity or a mistaken fact. They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community. They chose to treat him differently from other people who frequently visit their community, ”said Wanda Cooper-Jones. “And when they couldn’t scare or intimidate him enough, they killed him.”

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked the judge for life without parole for Travis and Greg McMichael and the possibility of parole for Bryan. But she said everyone deserved the life sentence for showing “no empathy for the trapped and terrified Ahmaud Arbery”.

Claiming that the McMichaels still believed they had done nothing wrong, Dunikoski revealed on Friday that Greg McMichael gave video of Bryan’s shooting to a lawyer, who leaked it.

“He believed it would exonerate him,” the prosecutor said.

For Travis McMichael, 35, the possibility of parole could mean the hope of release from prison in his 60s, said Robert Rubin, one of his defense attorneys. He argued that Travis McMichael only opened fire after “Mr. Arbery came up to him and grabbed the gun. But Rubin also admitted that his client’s decisions to arm and hunt Arbery were “reckless” and “thoughtless.”

“They are not proof of a soul so blackened that it deserves to spend the rest of her life in prison,” Rubin said. “It wasn’t a planned murder. It was a brawl over a gun that led to Mr. Arbery’s death.

Greg McMichael recently turned 66 and Bryan is 52, which increases the chances that they will spend the rest of their lives in prison even if they have a chance at parole.

Greg McMichael’s lawyer Laura Hogue said his client had health issues and admitted he would likely never get out of jail. But he said granting him a chance at parole would show he had no intention of dying, never firing his gun until his son had fired his shotgun.

“Greg McMichael did not leave his home that day hoping to kill,” Hogue told the judge. “He didn’t see his son shoot that shotgun with anything other than fear and sadness. What this jury found was that it was an unintentional act.

Bryan’s attorney said he should have a chance at parole because he showed remorse and cooperated with the police, turning over cellphone video of the shooting to help them uncover the truth.

“Sir. Bryan is not the one who brought a gun,” Kevin Gough said. “He was unarmed. And I think that reflects his intentions.

The guilty verdicts against the men handed down the day before Thanksgiving sparked a victory celebration outside the Glynn County courthouse for those who saw Arbery’s death as part of a larger national calculation on the racial injustice.

The three men were also convicted of aggravated assault, forcible confinement and a criminal attempt to carry out forcible confinement. The maximum prison sentences for these counts range from five to 20 years. The judge was likely to allow these additional sentences to be served at the same time as the life sentences for murder.

The McMichaels seized guns and jumped into a van to pursue Arbery, 25, after spotting him running around their neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick in Georgia on February 23, 2020. Bryan joined the chase in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael firing close range shotguns at Arbery as he threw punches and grabbed the gun.

The murder went largely unnoticed until two months later, when the graphic video leaked online and sparked a nationwide uproar. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took the matter back to local police and quickly arrested the three men.

Defense lawyers have announced their intention to appeal the convictions. They have 30 days after conviction to drop them off.

Next month, the McMichaels and Bryans will face a second trial, this time in U.S. District Court, on federal hate crime charges. A judge has set the jury selection to begin on February 7. Prosecutors will argue that the three men violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him for being black.

Men found guilty of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery are sentenced to life imprisonment; no parole for father, son

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