ATLANTA (CN) — The three white men convicted of chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced Friday to life in prison, with the judge refusing to grant any possibility of parole to the father and son who initiated the pursuit of the 25-year-old Black jogger.
A Georgia jury convicted Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan of murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment in November.
The McMichaels armed themselves with guns and chased Arbery in their pickup truck after spotting him jogging through their coastal Georgia neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. Bryan joined the chase in his truck and captured video on his cellphone of the moment Travis McMichael fired two fatal shotgun blasts at Arbery.
Before sentencing the three men Friday, Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley called Arbery’s murder a “tragedy on many, many levels.”
“Almost two years ago, a resident of Glynn County, a graduate of Brunswick High [School], a son, a brother, a young man with dreams was gunned down in this community,” Walmsley said. “As we understand it, he left his home apparently to go for a run and he ended up running for his life.”
The judge sat silently for one minute during his statement, saying he wanted to give everyone in the courtroom an idea of what a fraction of the five-minute period Arbery spent running from the defendants feels like.
Walmsley said that as he contemplated the case, he kept returning to the terror Arbery must have felt.
“Ahmaud Arbery was then hunted down and shot,” the judge said. “And he was killed because individuals here in this courtroom took the law into their own hands.”
Under Georgia law, murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Walmsley sentenced both Travis and Greg McMichael to life in prison plus 20 years without the possibility of parole.
Bryan, who was acquitted of malice murder but convicted of felony murder, was granted the possibility of parole. The 52-year-old must serve at least 30 years in prison first, making it likely that he will still spend the remainder of his life in prison.
The sentences handed down Friday are in line with requests from prosecutor Linda Duniksoki, who recommended that Bryan get a chance at parole even though his actions contributed to Arbery’s death.
Walmsley appeared convinced, noting that Bryan “questioned the tragedy that had occurred.”
As for the McMichaels, Dunikoski said Friday that they showed no empathy for “the trapped and terrified Ahmaud Arbery.”
Condemning the McMichaels’ lack of accountability, the judge said that Greg McMichael “very early on in this tried to establish a narrative” by reassuring Travis at the crime scene that he had “no choice” but to shoot Arbery and by telling another individual on the scene that Arbery was “an asshole.”
Arbery’s mother, father and sister appeared during the sentencing hearing to ask the judge to impose the maximum possible penalty against the three men.
Jasmine Arbery remembered her brother as a funny, positive thinker with “dark skin that glistened in the sunlight like gold.” She cried as she described Ahmaud’s athletic build, his broad nose and his love of running.
“These are the qualities that made these men assume that Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal and chase him with guns drawn,” Jasmine said. “To me, those qualities reflect a young man full of life and energy who looked like me and the people I loved.”
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, told the judge Friday that Bryan and the McMichaels “have no remorse and do not deserve any leniency.”
Attorneys for the McMichaels tried to argue during Friday’s hearing that their clients are unable to make statements showing remorse for their actions because they are still defendants in a pending federal trial.
All three men face hate crimes charges for their involvement in Arbery’s death. Jury selection in the case is expected to begin in February.
Walmsley was not persuaded by the attorneys’ arguments, saying, “Remorse isn’t just a statement of regret. Remorse can be determined by looking at someone’s reaction to the circumstances… In this case, after Ahmaud Arbery fell, the McMichaels turned their backs.”
Outside the courthouse after the sentence was announced, supporters of the Arbery family cheered and applauded. Cooper-Jones thanked the judge, saying he “gave us a very good verdict and he gave us a very good sentence.”
Defense attorneys have indicated that they plan to appeal the convictions.
Courthouse News reporter Lauren Gallet contributed to this story.Follow @KaylaGoggin_CNS
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