Updated Jan 31, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors reach hate crimes plea deal with 2 of Ahmaud Arbery's murderers

A demonstrator holds a sign at the Glynn County Courthouse as jury selection begins in the trial of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery on October 18, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia.

A demonstrator holds a sign with an image of Ahmaud Arbery at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga., in October. Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Two of Ahmaud Arbery's killers, Travis and Gregory McMichael, have reached plea agreements with prosecutors in their federal hate crimes case concerning the Black jogger's 2020 murder in Georgia, according to court filings submitted Sunday night.

Why it matters: Attorneys for Arbery's family released a statement saying they're "vehemently against" the proposed plea deals, reached ahead of the hate crimes trial that's scheduled for Feb. 7, as it would see the murderers serve the first 30 years of their sentence in a preferred federal prison.

  • They will oppose the agreements in court Monday, announced Arbery family lawyer Lee Merritt, who tweeted: "This back room deal represents a betrayal to the Arbery family who is devastated."

What they're saying: "The DOJ has gone behind my back to offer the men who murdered my son a deal to make their time in prison easier for them to serve," Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said in the family's statement.

  • "I have made it clear at every possible moment that I do not agree to offer these men a plea deal of any kind. I have been completely betrayed by the DOJ's lawyers."

Details: Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, who along with William "Roddie" Bryan were sentenced to life in prison this month for 25-year-old Arbery's murder, had indicated they would plead not guilty to the hate crimes charges.

  • The three white killers were each charged with one count of the hate crimes offense of interference with rights, which carries a maximum of life in prison.
  • Federal prosecutors also charged all three with attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels in addition face gun violations charges.
  • No filing was announced for Bryan, who indicated earlier he would plead not guilty to the charges.
  • Prosecutors said in the filings that copies of the two plea agreements were submitted to the courts, but these were not immediately released, notes GPB News' Benjamin Payne, who obtained the court filings.

The big picture: Arbery's killers were convicted last November for his Feb. 23, 2020 murder.

  • Prosecutors only pursued the case after video footage of the killing went viral in May 2020, sparking nationwide outrage.
  • Representatives for the DOJ did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.
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