Ahmaud Arbery case: Three White men convicted of federal hate crimes charges in slaying

Jury found the men were motived by racial anger

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Three White men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty of federal hate crimes charges Tuesday in a Georgia courtroom.

The jury of eight White people, three Black people and one Hispanic person deliberated for less than five hours after a one-week trial.

Prosecutor Christopher Perras argued that Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan acted out of "pent-up racial anger" when they chased and killed Arbery, 25, after spotting the Black man on a jog near their homes in Satilla Shores, outside of Brunswick.

The men were also convicted of attempted kidnapping, and the McMichaels were found guilty of using a firearm in the commission of a crime.

Courtoom screen grabs from Fox News; Ahmaud Arbery photo courtesy of family.

Courtoom screen grabs from Fox News; Ahmaud Arbery photo courtesy of family. (Ahmaud Arbery Courtesy of Family)

Lawyers for the McMichaels said they had recognized Arbery as he ran by their home as the same man captured on surveillance footage on at least five occasions inside a nearby home that was under construction and suspected him of having committed a crime. There is no evidence Arbery ever took anything from the property.

AHMAUD ARBERY KILLING: PROSECUTORS BUILD CASE FOR HATE CRIMES

Nearly two years ago, on Feb. 23, 2020, the men grabbed their guns and pursued Arbery, who was unarmed, for five minutes through their residential neighborhood in a white pick-up truck. Bryan, who did not have a gun, joined the Sunday afternoon chase in his own truck and took graphic cellphone footage of the fatal confrontation.

In this 2012 file photo provided by Yolanda Richardson of FuzzyRabbit Fotos, Ahmaud Arbery poses for a senior photo on St. Andrews Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia.  

In this 2012 file photo provided by Yolanda Richardson of FuzzyRabbit Fotos, Ahmaud Arbery poses for a senior photo on St. Andrews Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia.   (AP)

After the men trapped Arbery with their trucks, the young man grabbed for Travis McMichael's rifle. The two tussled then Travis McMichael opened fire.

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The three men were convicted of murder in November in Georgia state court. 

The McMichaels were both sentenced to life in prison without parole, while Bryan received a sentence of life with the possibility of parole after 30 years. The U.S. Department of Justice charged the men separately in federal court with hate crimes, alleging they violated Arbery's civil rights and targeted him because of his race.

Prosecutors cited the men's racist text messages and social media posts to argue that the murder was motivated by racial animus. Jurors heard that Travis McMichael had commented on a Facebook video of a Black man playing a prank on a White person in 2018, "I'd kill the f---ing n----r." 

Witnesses took the stand and testified that they had heard the McMichaels use racial slurs. A woman told jurors that after she mentioned the death of civil rights activist Julian bond, Greg McMichael ranted, "All those Blacks are nothing but trouble."

"All three defendants told you loud and clear, in their own words, how they feel about African Americans," Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara Lyons said in closing statements.

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Defense lawyers countered that those slurs were not proof they targeted Arbery because he was Black. They said the men had acted on the erroneous belief that Arbery was behind a spate of crimes in the neighborhood.

An attorney for Travis McMichael said he only fired in self-defense after Arbery attacked him and grabbed for his weapon. 

"Mr. Arbery tried to wrestle the gun from out of Travis McMichael's hand," his lawyer Amy Copeland said in court. "You can see the struggle on the recording."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.