Two of the men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery were just sentenced to life, plus an additional 10 years, on hate crime charges. Travis McMichael, 36, and his father Greg McMichael, 66, will serve their sentences in state prison, rather than in the more cushy federal penitentiary that they requested. The third man involved in the killing, the McMichael’s neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Convicted in federal court in February, neither Travis nor his father Gregory has the possibility of parole.
In addition to charges of violently interfering with Arbery’s right to use a public street, the McMichaels were found guilty of kidnapping and weapons violations.
Defense attorney Amy Lee Copeland told the court she feared for her clients’ safety in state prison after the McMichaels’ request to serve their sentences in federal prison was denied, saying that they’ve received “hundreds of threats,” The Washington Post reported.
“I’m concerned that my client faces an effective back-door death penalty,” Copeland said. She added, “I understand the rich irony, judge, of expressing that my client will face vigilante justice himself.”
Arbery was out for a jog when he was chased, cornered, and killed by Travis McMichael, his father Gregory, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan in what has been described as a modern-day lynching.
A plea deal for the McMichaels fell apart after objections from the victim’s family.
“Granting these men their preferred conditions of confinement will defeat me,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said in court at the time. “It gives them one last chance to spit in my face after murdering my son.”
Arbery’s aunt, Ruby Arbery, condemned the elder McMichael, saying he “failed his son,” and pleaded with the court to send them to the state penitentiary to do their time.
“Seems like a generational curse: like father, like son,” she said, asking they do their time in state prison. “I don’t want them to have an easy life, because we will never have an easy life again. If they could bring Ahmaud back, they could have an easy life. But they chose to take a life, so they don’t deserve an easy life.”
The judge agreed.
At a time where accountability seems to be scarce, the sentencing of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers is a sign of hope that justice isn’t as elusive as we thought.
Original reporting by Kim Bellware at The Washington Post.
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