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Judge Rejects Plea Deal For Man Who Murdered Ahmaud Arbery

Judge Rejects Plea Deal For Man Who Murdered Ahmaud Arbery

A federal judge rejected a plea agreement Monday that would have averted a hate crimes trial for the man convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.

The proposed plea agreements for the McMichaels were filed with the court late Sunday. There was no mention of a deal with their co-defendant, William “Roddie” Bryan. All three men were sentenced to life in prison on January 7th after a trial last fall.

BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA – OCTOBER 27: Travis McMichael attends the jury selection in his trial together with Gregory McMichael and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, at the Glynn County Superior Court, on October 27, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. Greg and Travis 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)

In rejecting the deal, U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood said it would have locked her into specific terms at sentencing, including 30 years in federal prison. Judge Wood said that in this case, it would only be appropriate to consider the family’s wishes at sentencing, which the proposed deal wouldn’t allow. Arbery’s parents had denounced the proposed deal for Travis McMichael, with mother Wanda Cooper-Jones and father Marcus Arbery emotionally asking the judge to reject agreements filed for McMichael and his father, Greg McMichael.

The hate crime charges accuse McMichaels and Bryan of violating the 25-year-old Black man’s civil rights by chasing him through their neighborhood in coastal Georgia on Feb. 23, 2020. The McMichaels armed themselves and pursued Arbery in one pickup truck while Bryan joined the chase in another and recorded video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun. A national outcry erupted when the graphic video leaked online two months later. Georgia was one of just four U.S. states without a hate crimes law at the time. Legislators quickly approved one, but it came too late for state hate crime charges in Arbery’s killing.

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During the state trial in Glynn County Superior Court, the defense argued that the white men had the authority to chase Arbery because they “reasonably suspected” he had been committing crimes in their neighborhood. Travis McMichael testified he opened fire only after Arbery attacked him with fists and tried to grab his shotgun.

The judge gave the McMichaels until Friday to decide whether they move ahead with pleading guilty.

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