Arbery killers get life in prison; no parole for father, son

Travis McMichael, left, speaks with his attorney Jason B. Sheffield , center, during his sentencing, alone with his father Greg McMichael and neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan in the Glynn County Courthouse, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Brunswick, Ga. The three found guilty in the February 2020 slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Three white men convicted of murder for chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced to life in prison Friday, with a judge denying any chance of parole for the father and son who armed themselves and initiated the deadly pursuit of the 25-year-old Black man.

Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley said Arbery left his home for a jog and ended up running for his life for five minutes as the men chased him until they finally cornered him. The judge paused for a minute of silence to help drive home a sense of what that time must have felt like for Arbery, whose killing became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice.

“When I thought about this, I thought from a lot of different angles. I kept coming back to the terror that must have been in the mind of the young man running through Satilla Shores,” he said, mentioning the neighborhood where Arbery was killed.

Greg and Travis McMichael grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup to chase Arbery after spotting him running in their neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick, Ga., on Feb. 23, 2020. Their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan joined the pursuit in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael firing close-range shotgun blasts into Arbery.

“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,” the judge said. Walmsley ordered the McMichaels to serve life without parole and granted Bryan a chance to earn parole after serving at least 30 years in prison.

A few dozen supporters cheered Arbery’s family as they exited onto the courthouse steps Friday afternoon.

“Today your son has made history, because we have people who are being held accountable for lynching a Black man in America!” said Benjamin Crump, a civil attorney representing the family.

Murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison under Georgia law unless prosecutors seek the death penalty, which they opted against in this case. During the sentencing hearing, Arbery’s family had asked the judge to show no lenience in deciding whether to grant an eventual chance at parole.

Arbery’s sister recalled his humor, describing him as a positive thinker with a big personality. She told the judge her brother had dark skin “that glistened in the sunlight,” thick, curly hair and an athletic build, factors that made him a target for the men who pursued him.

“These are the qualities that made these men assume that Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal and chase him with guns drawn. To me, those qualities reflect a young man full of life and energy who looked like me and the people I loved,” Jasmine Arbery said.

Arbery’s mother said she suffered a personal, intense loss made worse by a trial where the defense argued her son had made bad choices that led to his death.

“This wasn’t a case of mistaken identity or mistaken fact. They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community. They chose to treat him differently than other people who frequently visited their community,” Wanda Cooper-Jones said. “And when they couldn’t sufficiently scare or intimidate him, they killed him.”

The sentences matched the recommendation of prosecutor Linda Dunikoski, who said all deserved the mandatory life sentence for showing “no empathy for the trapped and terrified Ahmaud Arbery.”

Contending the McMichaels still believed they didn’t do anything wrong, Dunikoski disclosed Friday that Greg McMichael gave Bryan’s cellphone video of the shooting to an attorney, who leaked it.

“He believed it was going to exonerate him,” the prosecutor said.

The McMichaels’ defense attorneys argued their clients deserved the possibility of parole because the killing was an unplanned, unintentional act. Bryan’s lawyer said he showed remorse and cooperated with police, turning over the cellphone video of the shooting to help them get to the truth.

“Mr. Bryan isn’t the one who brought a gun,” Kevin Gough said. “He was unarmed. And I think that reflects his intentions.”

In addition to murder, all three men were also convicted of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. Travis and Greg McMichael were each sentenced to an additional 20 years for aggravated assault.

Next month, the McMichaels and Bryan face a second trial, this time in U.S. District Court on federal hate crime charges. A judge has set jury selection to begin Feb. 7. Prosecutors will argue that the three men violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because he was Black.

The guilty verdicts against the men handed down the day before Thanksgiving prompted a victory celebration outside the Glynn County courthouse. Defense attorneys have said they plan to appeal the convictions. They have 30 days after sentencing to file them.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

(15) comments

Scott Smart

Not sure why anyone would initiate a response to the posts of Mr Johnson. His intent is clear.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]Very perceptive........

David Ford

Excellent point Scott. As I have indicated before he functions here as nothing more than an amateur contrarian whose goals are: 1) to get people riled up (except Emily) by spewing forth the same talking points and outright lies as the right-wing whacko media, his fellow retrumplicans, and his true hero the orange menace himself, and of course 2) a desperate need for attention.

A few years back he used to post as “Dr.” thinking that gave him some level of credibility better than us lowly plebes and serfs. Of course, he’s not a real doctor just a paper doctor (easy to tell - he has no empathy). Best way forward for this whole medium is to ignore his posts, as you suggest, just like ignoring the temper tantrum of a 2-year-old, once the audience is gone, he should fade into irrelevance. It’s hard though in light of the BS posted sometimes. But his right-wing buddies would still be there to fully agree with everything he says, although I am sure it won’t be nearly as satisfying for him…Maybe we could start a movement: #ignoreMJofSF 😊

I’d venture a guess that this is his only hobby much like Drumpf’s 300 lb. guy surfing the internet sitting on his bed in the basement (if there were basements here).

Emily Koyama

You're here a lot, David, often posting Democrat talking point-laden word salads showing your adulation for all things liberal. It seems you have just as much free time as Mr Johnson, especially as you felt the urge to post this long-winded call to ignore him.(I appreciate the honorable mention, btw).

Suffice to say, we on the other side of the "aisle" could care less if you all ignore us, we aren't overly sensitive snowflakes that get offended at opposing views, but we excercise or right to post our opinions. You would silence us if you could, while claiming your BS tolerance.

Something tells me your campaign won't happen, though. The Fords, Scanlons, Fields, Klukkerts and Molinas can't help themselves.

If I left a couple of the liberal Santa Fe cabal out, I apologize.

It is cute that you people think you're in some sort of huge majority.

(By most polling data, "liberals" account for about 25% of the voting public. Thankfully, 75% of the country is not.....)

Have a nice day.

(I await the keyboard warriors spittle-covered responses!)

Mike Johnson

[thumbup]Yes Ms. Koyama, it is a thankless job, but someone must call out the left wing lest people think they are the majority in our country, and the midterms will prove how much they have lost in the last 2 years from a razor thin victory in 2020 in federal races, and how the conservatives still rule most states. It will be a rude awakening for them, but one reason to stay engaged is to enjoy their heads exploding and whining they do when they lose elections, SCOTUS rulings, and other judicial and political decisions. The loyal opposition will continue.

Lupe Molina

It's a good point Scott. I previously thought it important to warn people that the fake Dr. is an erratic troll notable for his frequent racist, sexist, and baiting missives. But I do think the rest of this community does now recognize his obvious bigotry (along with his friend Emily who thinks a gallows is just a prop and think liberals are 'mentally diseased'). So they can sit in their panic rooms and try to get a rise out of others while we all know the context: they're just lonely, small people.

Mike Johnson

Yes, I suspected showing this would bring out the people who think only white people can be threatening armed racists.

Khal Spencer

Its one thing to take up arms when threatened. But these fools deserve Life Achievement Awards in the Greybar Hotel.

Mike Johnson

Well, now maybe these groups can stand down......

Scott Showen

Here is some of your friends Mike.

David Ford

Ah yes, another "thoughtful" post from Dr. Contrarian. Did you post similar about the white supremacists of Charlottesville? Of course not because the more you spew forth here in this medium the more your true colors show, not as a "conservative" Democrat as you allege but just as a simple contrarian just for sport. Perhaps you should get a hobby (other than this) or maybe do some volunteer work to help your fellow citizens that you are so clearly concerned about. You are screaming towards the exit of complete irrelevancy...

Mike Johnson

I didn't have to post that, the left wing press showed it constantly, this was never reported on, thus why I wanted people to see the truth.

Lupe Molina

On look, another case of whataboutism from Dr. Mike, this time defending a group of racists who just got life in jail. Showing your true colors Mike! (All shades of white btw.)

Mike Johnson

Lupe, I have commented before that those scum deserved life in prison without parole, and that was long before the verdict. I was just showing people what the left wing press will not, the kind of actors involved in all this, does that offend you to be shown the truth?

Lupe Molina

Huh, actually, Mike. This looks like a pretty peaceful armed protest. A couple days ago you were defending the January 6th attack as no big deal, but this scares you? Wonder why? Couldn't be the race of the participants, could it Mike?

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