Following the rejection of his proposed plea agreement by a federal judge on Thursday, Gregory McMichael, one of Ahmaud Arbery’s three assassins, reiterated his guilty plea in a federal hate crimes case, according to court documents. As a result of Mr. McMichael’s decision, he will very certainly be subjected to a further trial, which may bring to light offensive sentiments of racism that were not addressed during the state murder trial.
After a month-long trial, Mr. McMichael and his son Travis McMichael were found guilty of murdering Mr. Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who they chased through their neighbourhood in a pair of pickup trucks in February 2020. Mr. Arbery’s family and neighbours were also convicted in the case in November. In January, the pursuers, all of whom were white males, were each sentenced to life in prison.
On top of that, the guys have been charged with federal hate crimes and attempted abduction, both of which may result in life terms if convicted. Nonetheless, as Monday approached, the day on which jury selection was to begin, the federal case was shaken by a dispute over plea agreements the McMichaels previously negotiated with the Justice Department, according to sources close to the case.
In a hearing held on Monday in Brunswick, Ga., U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood dismissed the agreement made by the government with Travis McMichael, therefore nullifying his father’s similar agreement with the government as well.
The judge’s ruling came after members of Mr. Arbery’s family spoke in court and expressed their strong opposition to the transactions. A key provision of the agreements, specifically one that would have allowed the McMichaels to serve 30-year sentences in federal prison rather than in the Georgia state prison system, which is generally regarded as more dangerous, was specifically objected to by Mr. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones.
A letter to the court was submitted on Thursday night by Gregory McMichael’s attorney, A.J. Balbo, and the Justice Department, claiming that Mr. McMichael’s plea deal had been withdrawn and that it should be regarded null and invalid.
As a result, it seems that at least two of Mr. Arbery’s three assassins will now be brought to justice: To yet, the Justice Department has not submitted any paperwork showing that they have struck an agreement with Mr. Bryan, which was due to be filed Thursday evening. McMichael is due to appear in court on Friday morning to inform the judge of his intent to plead guilty or continue to maintain his not guilty status.
Prosecutors avoided stressing the racial aspects of the crime when they presented their case to a jury that was almost entirely composed of white people, instead focused on the rashness of the actions taken by the three white males on that fateful day. Mr. Arbery was suspected by the guys of committing a number of break-ins in the area. In response to Mr. Arbery visiting a residence under construction that he had previously visited on multiple occasions, the McMichaels armed themselves and chased him down in a pickup truck, with Mr. Bryan joining them in a different pickup vehicle.
After many minutes, the soldiers utilised their vehicles to encircle Mr. Arbery and keep him from escaping. During the ensuing altercation, Mr. Arbery was shot three times by Travis McMichael, who was standing close to him and firing a shotgun at him.
During pretrial petitions and hearings, evidence indicating the individuals held racist beliefs was presented to the court. Several pieces of evidence, including “racial” Facebook posts and text messages from Travis McMichael and Mr. Bryan, as well as what were described as a “racial Johnny Rebel Facebook post” and a “Identity Dixie Facebook post” from Gregory McMichael, were filed in the state case in September 2020, according to the state’s filing.
These and a handful of other incidents might now take centre stage at the federal trial, after the state jury was denied the opportunity to examine them during its deliberations earlier this year. However, some legal experts believe that federal prosecutors will have a tough time obtaining convictions on the hate crime charges, despite the fact that there will be little dispute that the men made racist words before chasing Mr. Arbery.
According to Page Pate, a Georgia lawyer and legal commentator, “it is not just establishing that they are racists, and it is not just proving that they murdered Ahmaud Arbery without cause.” “It goes to show that their prejudice was the driving force for Ahmaud Arbery’s death.”
During Monday’s hearing, which was mostly focused on Travis McMichael’s proposed plea agreement, the government outlined their complex stance on how racism drove him and his actions.
According to Tara M. Lyons, assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, “Travis McMichael did not belong to any hate organisations and did not go out on February 23, 2020, to carry out an act of violence against an African American individual.” In the case of Ahmaud Arbery, however, he had formed assumptions about him that he would not have made in the case of Ahmaud Arbery having been white.
Amy Lee Copeland, the attorney representing Travis McMichael, as well as J. Pete Theodocion, the attorney for Mr. Bryan, refused to comment on Thursday evening, citing client confidentiality.