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Family of Ahmaud Arbery Rejects Federal Hate Crime Plea Deal for Father and Son Convicted of His Murder at State Trial

The family of Ahmaud Arbery has made their decision on the plea deal proposed to them by the Department of Justice earlier this week on behalf of Travis McMichael, 35, and his father Gregory McMichael, 66, in the February 2020 slaying of the 25-year-old Black man just outside of Brunswick, Georgia.

Ahmaud Arbery with his mother Wanda Cooper-Jones (Family Photo)

CBS News reported that the Arbery family, through their lawyer Lee Merritt, has formally rejected the proposal presented to them by the DOJ. The plea deal would have allowed the men responsible for the 25-year-old’s death to only serve 30 years in prison provided they admit their crime was motivated by hate.

Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, shared that she rejected the deal because she wants the men to stand trial in court for the death of her son (and all of the charges associated, including those motivated by racial prejudice).

She said, “I think that the federal charges are just as important as the state charges and I think that they need to stand trial for those charges as well.”

The father and son were both convicted of murder in a state trial in November, however, all three men, including William “Roddie” Bryan, will be sentenced for the charges on Jan. 7.

In addition to these charges, in the federal trial, the men will be charged with hate crimes. The US government will allege that the three used “used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race.”

The plea, according to the Arberry family attorney, was evidence that the McMichaels were not expecting to be convicted in Georgia.

“I think they [Travis and Gregory McMichael] were shocked by the outcome in this case as much of the nation was,” Merritt said.

“And now they’re going to have to stand trial before some of the best attorneys in the country, out of the Department of Justice, and they’re going to have to admit to the hateful nature of what they did.”

The McMichaels and Bryan were convicted of felony murder in November 2021.

The three men were charged with one count of malice, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of criminal attempt to commit a felony.

State sentences of life without parole for the McMichaels and life with the possibility of parole for Bryan were handed down by Judge Timothy Walmsley on Friday.


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