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Greg and Travis McMichael sentenced to life, Roddie Bryan to face 35 years for federal hate crimes in Ahmaud Arbery's murder

Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan, convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, were sentenced separately for federal hate crimes Monday.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Two of the three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery were given another life sentence Monday in the federal hate crimes case. 

U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced Travis McMichael, the shooter, to life in prison plus 10 years. Wood sentenced his father, Gregory McMichael, to life in prison plus seven years. William Roddie Bryan, the man who filmed the shooting, was sentenced to 35 years. 

The McMichaels were sentenced in the state case earlier this year to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Bryan was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. 

It has been two years, five months, and 16 days since Ahmaud Arbery was killed. The courtroom was packed full of Arbery's family and friends, some even in the overflow room Monday. The Reverend Jesse Jackson sat next to Arbery's family in the front row. 

The judge also denied the McMichaels' request to serve their time in federal custody. Last week, Travis McMichael's attorney, Amy Lee Copeland, filed a motion asking the judge to keep him in federal custody for fear he'd be killed in state prison. 

Monday, she said Travis has received more than 1,000 death threats. Copeland argued the Department of Justice is investigating Georgia state prisons regarding keeping inmates safe from other inmates. She said if Travis was brought to a state facility, she worries he "faces a backdoor death penalty."  

Copeland expressed that she sees the irony in worrying that Travis faces "vigilantly justice," but said even he deserves eighth amendment privileges. 

Copeland said if they couldn't get full federal custody, she wanted Travis to be in federal custody for a few years as a "cooling off period."  

Attorneys for the U.S. Government said while they want to keep all inmates safe, including Travis, he shouldn't get special treatment and get plucked from the state system and moved to a federal facility. 

Several of Arbery's family members gave victim impact statements, including Arbery's parents. Marcus Arbery Sr., Arbery's father, asked Travis, "how can you ask for mercy when you didn't give my Quez no mercy?"

He went on to say, "you killed him because he was Black and you hate Black people ... go to state prison. Stay there and rot," he said looking at Travis. 

Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery's mother, told the court "I feel every shot that was fired that day every day."

In her sentencing, Wood told Travis and the court she denied the request for Travis to remain in federal custody because she doesn't have the authority to do so. Since the state tried the case first, it has jurisdiction. She told the court it was a fair trial, "it was the kind of trial Ahmaud Arbery did not receive." 

Esther Panitch, an attorney not affiliated with the case, said the judge denying that request was expected.

"Whichever agency has defendants first keeps them for them to serve out their sentence, for the defendants to serve out their sentence once they've had their trial and been convicted," Panitch said. "In this case, there was an agreement that after the state prosecuted and sentenced these defendants that then the feds could borrow them for prosecution and sentencing, but then would return them to serve out their sentence," she said.

"This judge has no authority, but also had no willingness to try to upend that common understanding between the agencies," Panitch said. 

Panitch said despite knowing the judge would most likely deny this request, the attorneys have to try to do everything they can for their clients. 

"That doesn't stop these lawyers from having to advocate on behalf of their clients. So, even though it appeared to be a forgone conclusion that the judge wasn't going to get involved where these defendants serve their sentence, that doesn't relinquish the duty of these lawyers to advocate for their clients," she said. 

When given the opportunity to address the court, Travis did not. He has 14 days to appeal the decision.  

Arbery's family members also spoke during Gregory McMichael and William Roddie Bryan's sentencings. 

Cooper-Jones said she was shocked to learn how Arbery was killed. She said when she learned later Travis was with his father, she didn't want to believe it. She said as a mother, she would never accompany her son to commit any crime. 

Marcus Arbery Sr. told Gregory, "you deserve everything you get ... I don't like you."

Gregory's attorney, A.J. Balbo, asked the judge for leniency in his client's sentencing, specifically 20 years in a federal facility. He cited Gregory's age, health, safety and public service in the military and police department as reasons why.

He also brought up the DOJ's investigation into the state prisons and asked that Gregory stay in federal custody until at least the conclusion of the investigation. 

The Government argued, as they did in Travis' sentencing, that the Department of Corrections hasn't expressed that they can't keep Gregory safe.  

Gregory and Bryan both apologized to Arbery's family. Gregory told Arbery's family, "I'm sure my words mean very little to you." He said he didn't intend for any of this to happen. "There was no malice in my heart or my son's heart that day."

"The loss you've endured is beyond description. There are no words for it," Gregory said. 

He also apologized to his son, Travis, for handling the situation the way he did, and for putting him in that position. Gregory apologized to his wife, too. He also told Arbery's family he prays God's peace comes to Arbery's family and to the community.

In Gregory's sentencing, the judge said, "a young man is dead ... he will forever be 25."

Bryan told the court in his apology he was "glad to finally have the chance to say I'm sorry for what happened." He said he wouldn't have ever gotten involved if he knew then what he knows now. 

Bryan appeared in an orange jumpsuit. His sister and his fiancé were in the courtroom. He and his attorney asked the judge for a lesser sentence than his co-defendants. His attorney, Pete Theodocion, argued the first time Bryan saw Arbery he was being chased and told to stop and he made a snap judgement. He said Bryan didn't intentionally select Arbery as a victim, like, he said, the McMichaels did. He said Bryan thought he was doing the right thing. 

The Government said Bryan made a snap judgement to join the chase because of Arbery's race. "He saw a Black man running down the street," the Government said. "This never, ever, ever would've happened if Ahmaud were white." 

Theodocion also argued Bryan didn't bring a gun to the scene and said his actions afterward, like offering officers the video he took, shows he was cooperative. Theodocion argued Bryan has more of a racial ignorance than a racial hatred to the degree of the McMichaels. 

The Government fired back saying Bryan's truck blocked Arbery's last chance to leave the neighborhood. They also said Theodocion is arguing that Bryan is "less racist" than the McMichaels. 

In Bryan's sentencing, Wood told Bryan it was important to distinguish him from his codefendants. She made it clear, though, that he was still deserving of a lengthy sentence, one that has been "earned."

"By the time you serve your federal sentence, you will be almost 90 years old," Wood said. "But of course Mr. Arbery never got to be 26,” she said. 

Read our updates from Monday's sentencing below. 

Update 5:16 p.m.  Attorney Ben Crump releases a statement in response to the federal sentencing in the hate crime trial of Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Click here to read.

Update 4:06 p.m.:

The last of the three to be sentenced, making him the third ever person to be convicted of federal hate crimes in the state of Georgia, was William "Roddie" Bryan, who helped to chase Arbery and filmed his death. He has been sentenced to serve 35 years for his federal crimes.

It was Bryan's truck that blocked Arbery's last opportunity to exit Satilla Shores that day.

“To give you a life sentence would be to not distinguish you at all from the McMichaels,” says the judge, noting he was the only one who did not have a gun during the incident. She sentenced him to 420 months.  

It was Bryan's truck that blocked Arbery's last opportunity to exit Satilla Shores that day.

"By the time you serve your federal sentence, you will be close to 90 years old," U.S. District Judge Lisa Wood said after handing the sentence down. "Mr. Arbery never got the chance to be 26."

Update 1:46 p.m.: Judge Wood has sentenced Greg McMichael, 66, to life in prison plus seven years. Like his son, he will first serve his life sentence in state prison. 

McMichael addressed Arbery's family in court for the first time. Arbery's mother says she accepts his apology, while her attorney said it seemed disingenuous. 

He addressed the Arbery family for the first time.

“I’m sure my words mean very little to you," he began, going on to say he didn’t intend for what happened that day to happen. 

He apologized to his son Travis for how he handled things that day and putting him in that position -- when he saw Arbery running, he went inside and called for his son.  

“I am unable to forgive you at this time,”Arbery's aunt told him in a victim impact statement. "Every time I see that video and witness how Ahmaud was hunted down and killed like he was an animal, I gasp for breath.”  

Update 11:40 a.m.: Travis McMichael, one of Arbery's killers, the man who pulled the trigger, has received a life sentence for the federal hate crimes charges. Judge Wood also denied his request to serve his time in federal custody for fear he’ll be killed in state prison. 

Judge Wood told him that he had "received a fair trial."

"It was the kind of trial that Ahmaud Arbery did not receive before he was shot and killed," she said. 

Follow here for live updates throughout the day. 


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