Ahmaud Arbery’s killers appeal hate crime rap, say previous racist comments don’t prove targeting

The three convicted murderers of Ahmaud Arbery, the black men shot in 2020 near Brunswick, Georgia, have appealed the jurors’ finding that the killing was a “hate crime” in a federal civil rights trial, claiming two of the defendants’ previous racist social media comments do not prove the trio targetted Arbery because of the color of his skin.

Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and William ‘Roddie’ Bryan Jr. were arrested in May 2020 and charged with Arbery’s death. In November 2021, they were all found guilty of felony murder, based mostly on video evidence that captured the entire assault and handed life sentences. But, in a rare move, prosecutors subjected the convicts to a federal civil rights trial, claiming the three were “racist vigilantes” and targeted the 25-year-old because he was black, the Daily Mail explains.

(Video: YouTube)

Attorneys for Gregory McMichael, a former investigator, argued in an appellate brief filed on Friday that Gregory recognized Arbery from footage from a construction site that showed a possible intruder, and that is why he went after him.

“[Race was] of no greater import to Gregory McMichael’s calculus than Mr. Arbery’s biological sex, the shorts he was wearing, his hairstyle, or his tattoos,” they stated.

Had Arbery been a black woman, they noted, Gregory would not have pursued.

According to Bryan’s attorney, as a neighbor of the McMichaels, the former mechanic “had every right to assume” Arbery was a criminal and the McMichaels were chasing him for a good reason. In joining the pursuit, they argued during the hate-crime trial, Bryan was acting as a good Samaritan.

For taking the video of the killing and participating in the pursuit, Bryan received an additional 35 years in prison.

“Arbery never called out for help or gave any signs that he was the victim of an unprovoked attack,” Bryan’s lawyer, Pete Theodocion, argued.

“Every crime committed against an African American by a man who has used racist language in the past is not a hate crime,” he wrote.

While the elder McMichael had not made racist comments before or during the attack, the same could not be said for Bryan and his son, as old texts and social media posts proved during the federal trial.

It was Travis McMichael who ultimately fired the shot that killed Arbery, and in his appeal, his defense is focusing on technicalities: did the state prove that Arbery was chased and killed on public streets, or did the incident happen on private property?

Travis and his father, Gregory, both received additional federal life sentences, plus, in Travis’s case, 10 years, and in Gregory’s, an additional seven years.

“All of the sentences are to be held concurrently with the state time – meaning that even if the men are paroled on the state murder charges, their federal sentences will remain,” the Daily Mail reports.


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