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DOJ Indicts Three Men On Federal Hate Crime Charges In Ahmaud Arbery Murder Case

The Justice Department brought federal hate crimes charges Wednesday in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, charging a father and son who armed themselves, chased, and then fatally shot the 25-year-old Black man after spotting him running in their Georgia neighborhood. Arbery had been dead for more than two months when a cellphone video of the shooting was leaked online and a national outcry erupted.

Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory, were charged along with a third man, William “Roddie” Bryan. The three men are charged with one count of interference with civil rights and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels are also charged with using, carrying, and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.

The indictment charges that the McMichaels “armed themselves with firearms, got into a truck and chased Arbery through the public streets of the neighborhood while yelling at Arbery, using their truck to cut off his route and threatening him with firearms.” It also alleges that Bryan got into a truck and then chased Arbery, using the vehicle to block his path.

The Justice Department alleges that the men “used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race.” In pretrial court hearings in Georgia, prosecutors have presented evidence that racism may have played a role in the man’s death. Local prosecutors have said Arbery stole nothing and was merely out jogging when the McMichaels and Bryan chased him.

At the time Arbery was killed, Georgia was one of just four U.S. states without a hate crimes law. Amid the outcry over his death, Georgia lawmakers quickly passed a law allowing for an additional penalty for certain crimes found to be motivated by a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, or mental or physical disability. However, the men charged with murdering Arbery won’t face hate crime penalties at the state level because the law was changed after the killing.

 

The case is the most significant civil rights prosecution by the Biden Administration’s new Justice Department and comes as federal officials have moved quickly to open sweeping investigations into troubled police departments as the polarizing issue of civil rights takes center stage among the department’s priorities.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said the state case remained a priority, and he commended “this positive development and the continued push to get answers for Ahmaud’s family, community and our state.”



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