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.
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.
“This is an example of the Department of Justice literally snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”
— Ahmaud Arbery family attorney Lee Merritt on plea deal for Arbery’s killers pic.twitter.com/ekV0VSuEGL
— The Recount (@therecount) January 31, 2022
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.
Federal prosecutors have reached plea agreements with two of the three men facing federal hate crime charges for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. pic.twitter.com/6reTUIBkMp
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 31, 2022
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.
"It's disrespectful." #AhmaudArbery's parents react to plea deals prosecutors made with Gregory and Travis McMichael. The judge tied up loose ends at the 10 am pretrial hearing. She'll address plea deals at 2 and 2:45 pm. Arbery's mother and father will ask her to deny deals then pic.twitter.com/3i7UWEjPmC
— Kailey Tracy (@KaileyTracy) January 31, 2022
The judge gave the McMichaels until Friday to decide whether they move ahead with pleading guilty.