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Arbery’s Killer Withdraws Guilty Plea, Will Stand For New Trial

Arbery’s Killer Withdraws Guilty Plea, Will Stand For New Trial

The man convicted of murder for shooting Ahmaud Arbery withdrew his guilty plea on a federal hate crime charge Friday, electing to stand trial for a second time in the 2020 killing of the young Black man that became part of a larger national reckoning over racial injustice.

Travis McMichael reversed his plan to plead guilty in the federal case days after a U.S. District Court judge rejected terms of a plea deal between defense attorneys and prosecutors that was met with passionate objections by Arbery’s parents. Asked by U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood for his decision, McMichael said: “I withdraw the plea.” All three white men convicted of Arbery’s murder will return to court for the federal trial next week, after plea deals for McMichael and his father fell apart. Greg McMichael backed down from a plan to plead guilty in a legal filing late Thursday.

BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA – OCTOBER 27: Travis McMichael attends jury selection in his trial for the killing Ahmaud Arbery at the Glynn County Superior Court, on October 27, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. Travis and Greg McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan are charged with the February 2020 slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. (Photo by Octavio Jones-Pool/Getty Images)

The McMichaels and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, were convicted of murder in a Georgia state court last fall and sentenced to life in prison. Georgia lacked a hate crimes law at the time of the killing. The U.S. Department of Justice had them indicted on charges that the three white men violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because he was Black.

Both Greg and Travis McMichaels had planned to plead guilty to a hate crime charge after prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to propose a 30-year sentence that would include a request to transfer both of the McMichaels from Georgia’s state prison system to federal custody. The deal would have required both father and son to admit to racist motives and forfeit the right to appeal their federal sentence.

Wood rejected the deal Monday after Arbery’s parents argued that conditions in federal prison wouldn’t be as harsh. Wood said she ultimately denied the deal because it would have locked her into a specific sentence.

Wood has scheduled jury selection in the hate crimes trial will begin Monday.



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