Updated Aug 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Ahmaud Arbery's murderers sentenced to life for federal hate crimes

Travis McMichael at court

Travis McMichael (center) with his lawyers during his murder trial in November in Brunswick, Ga. Photo: Octavio Jones-Pool/Getty Images

A federal judge handed down another life sentence to Travis and Greg McMichael, two of three white men already in prison after being convicted in a state court for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

Driving the news: The McMichaels, who are father and son, and their former neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan were found guilty of federal hate crimes earlier this year. On Monday, Bryan received an additional 35-year federal sentence, after also already being sentenced to life in state prison, albeit with the chance for parole.

Of note: The judge, Lisa Wood, also ruled she could not override standard procedure and send the McMichaels and Bryan, as they had requested, to federal prison before they served their state sentences.

  • Travis McMichael had asked to serve his sentences in federal prison because of threats to his life from within state prison. His lawyer argued he would be facing a "backdoor death penalty" by going to state prison.
  • Wood found that none of the defendants could afford to pay any fines.

Why it matters: Federal sentencing is the final step in the prosecution of the three men who have been found guilty both of murdering the 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery and of targeting him because of his race.

  • Arbery was a Black man jogging through their suburban Brunswick, Georgia, neighborhood when the three men chased him, and Travis McMichael shot him.

Catch up quick: Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael were sentenced to life in state prison without a possibility of parole on murder charges earlier this year.

  • Bryan — who took the now infamous video of Arbery's murder — was sentenced to life in state prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

Flashback: Wood, after protests from Arbery's family, rejected a January plea deal for a 30-year sentence negotiated between the McMichaels' lawyers and federal prosecutors.

What they're saying: "I read in the newspaper every day that you were scared for your life. What did you think Ahmaud was when you chased him down?" Arbery's aunt, Ruby Arbery, said to the court Monday morning of Travis McMichael. She asked that the defendants serve their sentences in state prison.

  • "I don't want them to have an easy life. Because we will never have an easy life again," she said.
  • In his hearing Monday, Greg McMichael said to Arbery's family that "the loss that you've endured is beyond description." He assured them "there was no malice in my heart" on that February day. He also apologized to his son and to his wife.

What's next: The defendants have 14 days to file an appeal.

Go deeper: Why the Ahmaud Arbery verdict matters.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details throughout.

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