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‘Unauthorized Backroom Deal’: Ahmaud Arbery’s Parents Opposes DOJ’s Plea Deal with Son’s Murderers In Federal Hate Crimes Case

Marcus Arbery and Wanda Cooper-Jones, the parents of Ahmaud Arbery, have come out against the federal plea deal filed by the Department of Justice with a judge over the weekend.

The couple says they didn’t know about the agreement and are outraged by the government’s lack of transparency.

Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, leaves the Glynn County Courthouse as jury deliberations begin in the trial of the killers of her son on November 23, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

On Sunday, Jan. 30, federal prosecutors agreed to a plea deal with Greg McMichael, 66, and his son Travis McMichael, 36, over hate crimes charges regarding the February 2020 killing of Arbery, the Black man tracked down and killed in their neighborhood while he was jogging. The deal reportedly would permit the two plead guilty and serve a portion of their sentence, 30 years, in preferred federal prison instead of a Georgia state penitentiary.  

Jason Sheffield, the attorney for Travis McMichael in his state trial, is “absolutely convinced” McMichael’s federal attorney on the plea deal will do the “right thing” for him, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“We’re hoping the time he serves will be at a federal prison based on the programming and availability of resources,” Sheffield said.

When presented with the notion that doing time in a “preferred federal prison” will be easier for his former client, he said, “Anybody who tries to convince the public that one is better than the other or one is cushier than the other has no idea what it’s like to serve time in prison.”

Arbery’s parents called the agreement an “unauthorized backroom deal.”

In a statement, shared by their representation Ben Crump and Lee Merritt, the couple expressed that the DOJ “betrayed the Arbery family’s trust” by offering the convicted murderers a chance to serve time in a federal facility.

“Both Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery … are vehemently against this deal and expressed this directly on calls with DOJ officials today,” the statement starts. “This proposal deal would allow the McMichaels to enter Federal custody and serve the first 30 years of their sentence in a preferred Federal prison. This proposed plea is a huge accommodation to the men who hunted down and murdered Ahmaud Arbery.”

“The family is devastated at this development,” the remarks declared and submitted that by offering this deal to the McMichaels the court has ignored their family’s wishes which maintain that these men should not receive any special accommodations.

Arbery’s mother, Cooper-Jones clarified from her perspective how the prosecution deceived the family. She wrote in her personal statement, “The DOJ has gone behind my back to offer the men who murdered my son a deal to make their time in prison easier for them to serve.”

“I have made it clear at every possible moment that I do not agree to offer these men a plea deal of any kind. I have been completely betrayed by the DOJ lawyers,” she concluded.

Her attorney stated that she will “assert her right under federal law to oppose this peace directly before the Court” at the hearing on Monday, Jan. 31.

The three men, the McMichaels and William “Roddie” Bryan were convicted of Arbery’s murder in November and all sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years. Bryan is the only one with an opportunity for parole. In addition to these charges, in the federal trial that was scheduled for Feb. 7, the men were charged with hate crimes.

The DOJ said that it would 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.”

If this plea deal is accepted by a judge, whose details were not specified on Sunday during its filing, the men will not face a trial. 

According to court records, Bryan’s team did not file with the two and does not appear to have reached an agreement. The plea hearing for Travis McMichael is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday, and the plea hearing for Greg is set for 2:45 p.m.

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