The three Georgia men federally charged in the 2020 death of Ahmaud Arbery will go to trial early next year.
U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood wrote in an order issued Tuesday, Aug. 24, that jury selection will start on Feb. 7.
Gregory, 65, and Travis McMichael, 35, a father-and-son duo, and 51-year-old neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, are all charged with hate crimes in Arbery’s death. Each man faces one count of interference with rights and with one count of attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels also face charges of using guns to inflict violence.
It was Travis McMichael who fatally shot 25-year-old Arbery as he ran through the Georgia neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. The McMichaels spotted Arbery running, chased him down and cut off his path with a truck before he was killed. Bryan filmed and joined in on the chase. Footage of the attack was posted to social media in May and leading to outrage, causing the pace of the investigation to speed up and prompting the arrest of the three men.
Bryan and the McMichaels also face state murder charges and are set to stand trial later this year after jury selection begins on Oct. 18. The men won’t face hate crime charges at the state level because Georgia didn’t adopt hate crimes laws until after Arbery’s death, following public outrage over the killing.
Prosecutors have presented evidence that the crime may have been racially motivated. One investigator testified that Bryan told investigators Travis McMichael said a racial slur while standing over Arbery after shooting him.
Defense attorneys contend none of the men committed a crime, and say Bryan and the McMichaels thought Arbery had committed a burglary after he was previously captured on surveillance footage entering a home under construction. Travis McMicahel shot Arbery out of fear for his life as the two struggled over the shotgun, the attorneys say.
According to the Justice Department, 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.”
A pretrial hearing for the federal case is set to take place on Sept. 9.