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‘How Can You Dare Ask for Mercy? I Feel Every Shot That Was Fired Every Day’: Father and Son Convicted In Ahmaud Arbery Murder to Get Second Life Sentence for Federal Hate Crime In State Prison, Third Man Gets 35 Years

Despite their pleas for leniency, the father who helped corner and trap a Black jogger in a Georgia neighborhood and his son who pulled the trigger on the man will serve life for a federal hate crime and in state prison.

Travis and George McMichael will serve their federal sentences concurrently with their state murder sentences, plus additional years for attempted kidnapping and gun charges. They had asked the judge to house them in a federal facility, believing that it would be safer. Travis McMichael fears he will be killed in a state prison. Ahmaud Arbery‘s murder drew national attention and drove state legislators to reform Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law and create a penalty for hate crimes.

The ruling will keep the McMichaels in prison even if the state convictions are overturned. Another co-defendant, a neighbor, Willie “Roddie” Bryan, received more than 37 years in prison with credit for 27 months serve.

(From left) Willam “Roddie” Bryan, Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael. (File Photos)

A jury found the trio guilty of interference with rights, a federal hate crime, in February. Prosecutors argued that the men targeted Arbery because he is Black. The victim’s family asked Judge Wood to give the men the maximum sentence.

“My son was shot not one time, not two times, but three times,” Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones said before Travis McMichael’s sentence was announced. “Your honor,” she said. “I feel every shot that was fired every day.”

The father and son followed Arbery in a pickup truck in a neighborhood near Waycross, Georgia, after Travis McMichael spotted him walking around a home under construction in February 2020. The pair cornered and blocked Arbery on the street while Bryan recorded the incident on his cellphone. Travis jumped out of his truck, confronted and shot the 25-year-old. He was sentenced to 10 years for using and carrying a Remington shotgun. His father will serve seven years for his gun charge.

Federal prosecutors used the men’s past social media posts and conversations to argue that their views of Black people led them to believe that Arbery was a burglar.

Gregory McMichael had asked the court for 20 years instead of the life sentence because of his health and argued that he was not racist because he helped Black people while serving as a cop and in the U.S. Navy.

George McMichael’s attorneys pointed out that he saved a Black sailor’s life in the 1970s and had escorted a Black man on a lawn mover for his safety as a police officer. Defense attorneys for Travis McMichael argued that the tussle over the gun caused the shooting. His attorneys said that he has received “thousands” of threats and that ordering him to serve in state prison would be a “back-door penalty.”

“How can you dare ask for mercy? You didn’t give my Quez mercy,” Marcus Arbery said, referring to his son by his middle name.

Bryan’s attorney also argued that his client should get less than a life sentence because he did not participate in the violence. Bryan’s attorney J. Pete Theodocian said Bryan didn’t know any of the people involved or that the McMichaels had guns. Bryan apologized to Arbery’s family on Monday.

“The evidence showed Bryan acting out of ignorance, not hatred, and without the near expectation of potential violence as the McMichaels. When the McMichaels pulled off in their truck armed with firearms, they signed up for a possible shootout,” Theodocian wrote in the memo.

Even though, Bryan escaped a life sentence, Wood pointed it that it was not a light penalty.

“Because you don’t deserve a light sentence,” the judge added.

The Georgia NAACP applauded the judge’s ruling on Monday and thanked the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecuting the convicted killers.

“A Black man in Georgia should feel free to enjoy his Civil Rights anywhere in this state without fear of armed vigilantes. Ahmaud should have been able to complete his jog in peace, however, his memory has forever changed the course of Georgia History. We will continue to uplift the quest for full justice with his family and the citizens of Glynn County,” Georgia NAACP President Gerald Griggs said in a statement.

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