Three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery have been sentenced to life in prison. Two of the three men, Travis McMichael, 36, and his father, Greg McMichael, 66, were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the 2020 crime. Their co-conspirator William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, who filmed the killing, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Arbery’s death in 2020 added further fuel to the already-raging Black Lives Matter protest movement in the midst of an increase in public awareness of black people being killed by police and vigilante criminals. Arbery was unarmed and jogging through a suburban neighborhood in Georgia when the McMichaels and Bryan chased him in their vehicles while brandishing weapons before fatally wounding him. Bryan’s video of the crime proved pivotal during the trial
U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood handed down the sentences on Monday, calling the trial “fair” and noting that it was more than the men afforded Arbery. “A young man is dead. Ahmaud Arbery will be forever 25. And what happened, a jury found, happened because he’s Black,” Wood remarked.
This sentencing is the result of the McMichaels and Bryan appealing the result of a state case that also sentenced them to life without parole. Their lawyers have argued that imprisonment in a state facility will be dangerous, as the men have received death threats for their roles in Arbery’s murder. Wood declined their requests to be imprisoned in federal prison and didn’t remark on their concerns regarding safety.
The end of the case represents closure on a dark chapter of American history. “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,” stated the U.S. Attorney General, Merrick Garland.
“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.”
This news came shortly after the four police officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s shooting were officially charged with crimes in relation to her death. Taylor and Arbery’s deaths, along with the death of George Floyd in early 2020, sparked a widespread movement to denounce violence against black people.