The three men responsible for the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery have all been sentenced to life in prison. Two of the men are guaranteed to never see freedom again. The prosecutor, who recommended life without parole, also asked that the men not be able to make money from their stories in the future.
On Friday, Jan. 7, Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced Travis McMichael, 35, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, to life in prison without parole, plus an additional 20 years, in the murder of the 25-year-old Brunswick, Georgia, native.
William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, the neighbor to the McMichaels, has been sentenced to life in prison, however, his sentence differs as he does have the possibility of parole in 30 years.
In November, a jury found the McMichaels and Bryan guilty of the Feb. 23, 2020 murder of the Black jogger in their community, Satilla Shores.
Before the sentencing, the family called for the judge to consider sentencing the men harshly for the crime.
“The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every single day next to his father. I’ll never get that chance to sit next to my son ever again. Not at a general table. Not at a holiday. And not at a wedding,” Ahmaud Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, told the court before the sentencing.
“His killers should spend the rest of their lives thinking about what they did and what they took from us and they should do it behind bars because me and my family have to do it for the rest of their life.”
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones shared that she loved her son, speaking as if he were in the court with them, “Son, I love you as much today as I did the day you were born.”
Then she spoke to the judge about their intent, even after they could not reduce her son’s manhood, the Atlanta Constitution-Journal reports, “They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community. When they couldn’t sufficiently scare him or intimidate them, they killed him.”
“So I’m asking the men who killed him be given the maximum sentence available to the court,” Cooper-Jones requested.
She also referred to one defendant’s counsel and the comments she made about Arbery’s “long, dirty toenails” in her closing argument, “He was messy. He sometimes refused to wear socks. I wish he would have cut and cleaned his toenails before he went out that day. I guess he would have if he knew he would have been murdered.”
Before he gave his sentence, Judge Walmsley dramatically demonstrated the terror that Ahmaud most have felt and invoked a biblical theme about who constitutes one’s neighbor and blasted the men for taking their law in their own hands. He also recited the vile comments made by the defendants regarding the night of Arbery’s death.
Walmsley repeatedly described the video of Arbery’s death as chilling and how the men chased him, before stating, “Ahmaud Arbery was then hunted down and shot, and he was killed because individuals here in this courtroom took the law into their own hands.”
He later said, “Taking the law into your own hands is a dangerous endeavor.”
Then, he timed a minute of silence from the bench to mark “a fraction of the time Ahmaud Arbery was running in Satilla Shores,” adding that he “kept coming back to the terror that must have been in [his] mind” as he considered the time.
NBC reports he said, “He left his home to go for a run and ended up running for his life.”
“Remorse isn’t simply a statement of regret. Remorse is something that’s felt and demonstrated,” he said. “After Ahmaud Arbery fell, the McMichaels turned their backs.”
Linda Dunikoski, the prosecutor, also said in her remarks that the McMichaels showed no remorse for “the trapped and terrified Ahmaud Arbery.”
“This was a killing. It was callous,” he said. “It occurred because a violent crime was being sought.”
Right before closing, he said, “I read somewhere and I don’t remember where it was, that at a minimum, Ahmaud Arbery’s death should force us to consider expanding our definition of what a ‘neighbor’ may be and how we treat them. I argue that maybe a neighbor is more than the people that own property around your house. I also believe that assuming the worst in others, we show our worst character.”
He noted that the reason he afforded Bryan an opportunity for parole is because “demonstrated grave concerns that what had occurred should not have occurred.”
Attorney Alan Davis Tucker said that he got the video footage of Arbery’s death from Bryan’s cellphone, footage that he filmed during the attack and murder, on May 5, 2020. Bryan lied after the footage was leaked and said that he “I had nothing to do with it.”
After the sentencing prosecutor Dunikoski asked the judge to rule that none of the men be permitted to “make any money off of their actions, such as a book deal, a movie deal, social media deal or anything along any way, shape or form make any money off of this experience, this conviction, and this trial.”
Adding if “any money be made, that it go into a fund for the Arbery family.”
Bryan’s lawyer gave a rebuttal, “When the court does that, my only concern is how that would impact Mr. Bryan’s ability to raise money for his defense, for his appeal.”
“I wouldn’t want to be in a situation where he couldn’t do that inadvertently because of a sentencing condition,” he continued.
Judge Walmsley asked the state to present a formal request and submit to him for review. He said, “I don’t want to just offhandedly grant the request without understanding exactly what the terms are that the court is seeking.”
“I would like something in writing from the state, what the terms are that the state would be seeking,” he finally stated, after asking if there was a state precedent.
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