A federal jury found Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan guilty on all counts in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
The verdict came on the eve of the second anniversary of Arbery’s murder. The McMichaels and Bryan chased Arbery through their mostly White Georgia neighborhood in their pickup trucks, cornering him before Travis McMichael shot the innocent jogger with a shotgun.
The trio was convicted in state court and given life sentences. The federal charges included a hate crime that exposed each of the men’s history of racism.
Throughout the one-week trial, defense attorneys tried to sell the jury that, while the men weren’t “likable,” their actions weren’t driven by racial hatred. However, Prosecutor Christopher Perras ferociously attacked that stance.
The murder “was driven by their pent-up racial anger and [Travis McMichael] was just looking for a reason,” Perras insisted. He also noted that if the men thought Arbery had committed a crime, they never alerted the police.
Trial testimony from FBI intelligence analyst Amy Vaughan revealed a host of racist remarks from Travis McMichael. Vaughn testified that Travis McMichael and his friends routinely used racist slurs directed at African Americans.
One text from Travis McMichael to a friend describes how he enjoyed his new job because he didn’t have to work with Black people. “They ruin everything,” McMichael wrote. “That’s why I love what I do now. Not a [n-word] in sight.”
In a Facebook video that purportedly shows a group of Black teenagers beating a White youth, Travis McMichael commented, “I say shoot them all,” and he referred to the group as “monkeys.”
Travis McMichael also referred to a woman who dated a Black man as an “[N-word] lover.”
Kim Ballesteros, who lived next door to the McMichaels, told the court about a conversation in which Gregory McMichael used racist language to describe a tenant he had. “She was a large Black woman who did not pay her rent very well,” Ballesteros told the court. “Their name for her was the walrus.”
When Gregory McMichael told her that the woman didn’t pay her rent on time, he disabled her air conditioning unit. “You should have seen how fast her big fat Black a** came with the rent check,” Gregory McMichael said, according to Ballesteros.
The FBI’s Vaughan also testified that Bryan often used the N-word and words like “bootlip” to describe Black people.
She said he routinely slurred African Americans on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “Happy Bootlip Day,” Bryan told a friend in one message. “I worked like a [N-word] today,” he stated.
Perras dismissed any notion that suggested somehow justified the deadly action. “There’s a big difference between being vigilant and being a vigilante,” he told the jury. “It’s important for you to understand the full depth of the defendants’ racial hatred.”
Before the trial, the McMichaels cut a deal with prosecutors. They agreed to plead guilty to hate crime charges and serve their sentence in federal prison.
However, Arbery’s parents, Wanda Cooper-Jones and Marcus Arbery argued against the arrangement. That prompted the judge to toss out the plea deal. “Ahmaud didn’t get the option of a plea,” Cooper-Jones demanded.
The judge gave the McMichaels and Bryan two weeks to file an appeal.
Stacy M. Brown is the NNPA Newswire senior national correspondent.