Jury finds 3 men guilty in Ahmaud Arbery hate crimes case

The jury deliberated for less than four hours before reaching their verdict.

February 22, 2022, 12:39 PM

A federal jury found Gregory McMichael, his son, Travis McMichael, and their neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, guilty on all counts in the Ahmaud Arbery hate crimes case.

The U.S. District Court panel of eight white people, three Black people and one Hispanic person received the case on Monday afternoon and reached its decision on the eve of the second anniversary of Arbery's murder in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia.

PHOTO: The family and attorneys of the Ahmaud Aubery raise their arms in victory after all three men were found guilty of hates crimes at the federal courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., Feb. 22, 2022.
The family and attorneys of the Ahmaud Aubery raise their arms in victory after all three men were found guilty of hates crimes at the federal courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., Feb. 22, 2022. Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan, the three men convicted of murder in Arbery's fatal shooting have been found guilty of federal hate crimes.
Lewis M. Levine/AP

After deliberating for less than four hours, the jury convicted all three men of being motivated by racial hate in interference of Arbery's civil rights, and attempted kidnapping. Travis McMichael, 36, and his 64-year-old father were also convicted of carrying and brandishing a weapon during the commission of a crime of violence.

Travis McMichael was also found guilty of discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.

"We got justice for Ahmaud in the federal and the state," Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery, said following the jury's announcement.

Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, noted that the verdict came a day before the second anniversary of her son's death, saying, "Ahmaud will continue to rest in peace but he will now rest in power."

"It's another milestone, another challenge that we've overcome," Cooper-Jones said. "Today is Super Tuesday. We got a guilty verdict on all charges for all murderers."

PHOTO: From left, Travis McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan, and Gregory McMichael during their trial at at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga.
From left, Travis McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan, and Gregory McMichael during their trial at at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. The jury is deliberating in the federal hate crimes trial of three white men in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.
Pool via AP, FILE

Cooper-Jones added that as a mother, she "will never heal" from the death of her son.

"They gave us a sense of a small victory," Cooper-Jones said. "We as a family will never get victory because Ahmaud is gone forever."

Cooper-Jones criticized the Department of Justice for a plea deal it had reached with the three men right before the start of the trial. The judge refused to accept the plea deals.

"I'm very thankful that you guys brought these charges of hate crime, but back on Jan. 31, you guys accepted a plea deal with these three murderers who took my son's life," Cooper-Jones said.

Cooper-Jones said she spoke to the assistant attorney general for the civil rights division of the Department of Justice, asking her to not accept a plea deal with defendants.

"I spoke to Kristen Clarke and the lead attorney Tara Lyons, begging them to please not take this plea deal. They ignored my cry. I begged them," Cooper-Jones said.

"Even after the family stood before the judge and asked them not to take this plea deal, the lead prosecutor stood up and asked the judge to ignore the family's cry. That's not justice for Ahmaud," she went on.

Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke to reporters following the jury's decision, saying the Department of Justice will not hesitate to act when individuals "commit violent acts that are motivated by bias or hate."

"No one in this country should have to fear the threat of hate-fueled violence. No one should fear being attacked or threatened because of what they look like, where they are from, whom they love, or how they worship. And no one should fear that if they go out for a run, they will be targeted and killed because of the color of their skin," Garland said.

He went on, "Although we welcome the jury's verdict, the only acceptable outcome in this matter would have been Mr. Arbery returning safely to his loved ones two years ago. His family and his friends should be preparing to celebrate his 28th birthday later this spring not mourning the second anniversary of his death, tomorrow. Ahmad Arbery should be alive today."

The McMichaels and Bryan were already convicted in state court of murdering the 25-year-old Black jogger and are serving life sentences. The McMichaels were not given the possibility of parole.

Arbery's family said they will now focus on making sure former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson is convicted of allegedly using her position in an attempt to shield the McMichaels from prosecution.

Police did not charge any of the now-convicted murderers immediately following the Feb. 23, 2020, shooting, and the McMichaels and Bryan remained free for more than two months until the cellphone video of the shooting was leaked online and Gov. Brian Kemp asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to take over the case. During the federal trial, prosecutors said Gregory McMichael leaked the video, which was taken by Bryan, in an ill-conceived effort to show his son shot Arbery in self-defense.

A grand jury in coastal Glynn County, Georgia, indicted Johnson in September on a felony count of violating her oath of office and hindering a law enforcement officer, a misdemeanor. Johnson, who once worked with Gregory McMichael, has pleaded not guilty.

ABC News' Janice McDonald contributed to this report.

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