BRUNSWICK, (Ga): A judge sentenced white father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael to life in prison on Monday for a federal hate crime in the 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man shot after jogging in a suburban Georgia neighborhood in a case that involved issues of racist violence and vigilantism in America.
US District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced Travis McMichael, a 36-year-old former US Coast Guard mechanic, and Gregory McMichael, a 66-year-old former Glynn County police officer who later worked for the local prosecutor’s office, in the coastal city of Brunswick.
Both men already are serving life sentences with no possibility of parole after being convicted of Arbery’s murder in a state trial last November. They were the first two of the three white men convicted in February in a subsequent federal trial to be sentenced in consecutive hearings on Monday.
In handing down the younger McMichael’s sentence, Wood said the widely seen cellphone video of him shooting Arbery at close range with a shotgun was seared into her memory.
“You acted because of the color of Mr. Arbery’s skin,” the judge told McMichael, who looked ashen as the sentence was pronounced.
The two McMichaels and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, were convicted of violating Arbery’s civil rights by attacking him because of his race and of attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels also were convicted of a federal firearms charge. Bryan, who worked as a mechanic, is scheduled to be sentenced later on Monday.
Arbery’s case is one in a series of killings of Black people in recent years that have drawn attention to the issue of racism in the US criminal justice system and law enforcement. It also highlighted the broader issue of US gun violence.
The slain man’s father, Marcus Arbery, told the court during the first hearing: “These three devils have broken my heart into pieces that cannot be found or repaired.” Referring to Travis McMichael, he added: “You hate Black people.”
“I struggled to come to the realization that a father could actually accompany his son to take a life,” Wanda Cooper Jones, Arbery’s mother, told the second hearing in urging a life sentence for Gregory McMichael.
Travis McMichael, who declined his right to testify at the hearing, had asked through his lawyer to be transferred out of the state prison system into a federal prison he perceived to be safer. Wood said the rules required that McMichael return to the state prison system where he is already serving a life sentence.