Last updated on February 1, 2022
A federal judge on Monday rejected the plea deal prosecutors had reached with one of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers for the hate crime charges he faces.
U.S. District Judge Lisa Wood in Georgia rejected a plea deal prosecutors reached with Travis McMichael, one of the three men convicted of Arbery’s murder.
“It is my decision to reject the plea agreement,” Wood said. “In this case, it is appropriate to hear at sentencing from all concerned, including the victim’s family.”
The plea deal involved McMichael being allowed to serve his hate crime sentence first, 30 years in a federal prison rather than a state one. Lawyers for Arbery’s family said a federal prison would allow the men to serve their sentences in better prison conditions.
By accepting the plea deal, McMichael would be admitting that he killed Arbery out of racial animus, prosecutors said, arguing that the admission was important for healing.
“I can’t say that 360 months is a precise … fair sentence in this case,” Wood said. “It could be more. It could be less. It could be that. But given the unique circumstances of this case and my desire to hear from all concerned regarding the sentencing before I pronounce sentence, I am not comfortable accepting the terms of the plea agreement.”
Arbery’s mother was reportedly angry by the plea deal for her son’s killers and urged the judge to reject it.
“Please listen to me,” Cooper-Jones said in court. “Granting these men their preferred conditions of confinement would defeat me. It gives them one last chance to spit in my face after murdering my son.”
Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was fatally shot in Glynn County, Georgia on Feb. 23, 2020, as he was jogging through the Satilla Shores neighborhood.
During the trial, the jury watched video of Arbery roaming around a vacant property with a house under construction. In the moments after Arbery left the property, he was chased by three white male residents of the neighborhood. Travis McMichael, 35, and his father Gregory McMichael, 66, armed themselves with guns and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after he ran past their yard, which was several houses down from the unfinished property. Their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, followed Arbery in another car. Arbery then had a confrontation with Travis McMichael, who shot Arbery as he ran in front of the pickup truck.
Arbery’s murder along with the killing of George Floyd and several other incidents of violence against African Americans contributed to sparking the racial justice protests, uprisings, and riots that erupted across the country in the summer of 2020.
All three men were charged with murder and convicted on November 24.
Both McMichaels were found guilty of felony murder, aggravated assault with a firearm and with a pickup truck, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony. Travis McMichael was also found guilty of malice murder, but his father was found not guilty on that charge.
Earlier this month, Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced both Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Bryan was also found guilty of felony murder and several other charges and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
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