BRUNSWICK, Ga. (A P) — The three white men convicted of murder in Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting were found guilty of federal hate crimes Tuesday for violating Arbery’s civil rights and targeting him because he was Black.
The jury also found father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan guilty of attempted kidnapping, and the McMichaels guilty of the use of a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.
The verdict — handed down one day before the second anniversary of Arbery’s death on Feb. 23, 2020 — was a symbolic one, coming just months after all three defendants were convicted of murder in a Georgia state court and sentenced to life in prison.
But family and community members viewed the hate crimes trial as an important statement that racism motivated the killing. The case also became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice after graphic video of Arbery’s killing leaked online.
Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., bowed his head and shook his fists in quiet celebration as the guilty verdicts were read in the courtroom. He then pressed his hands together in front of his face as if saying a silent prayer.
He and Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, emerged from the courthouse holding hands with attorney Ben Crump, then raised their clasped hands to cheers from supporters.
Greg and Travis McMichael sat stoically at the defense table as the guilty verdicts were read. When called one- at-a-time before the judge to discuss next steps in their cases, they answered with hushed voices.
Weeks prior to the trial, the McMichaels had both agreed to enter guilty pleas to the hate crimes in exchange for being able to serve their sentences in federal, rather than state, prison. Judge Lisa Godbey Wood rejected the deal, however, saying it would tie her hands at sentencing and after Arbery’s family vehemently opposed it.
“What we got today, we wouldn’t have gotten if it wasn’t for the fight by the family for Ahmaud,” Cooper-Jones said Tuesday, reiterating her anger at Justice Department prosecutors, who she said “chose to ignore the family’s cry.”