Murder of Ahmaud Arbery: Greg McMichael withdraws his plea

BRUNSWICK, GA. —
The man convicted of murder for shooting Ahmaud Arbery withdrew his guilty plea to a federal hate crime charge on Friday, opting to stand trial for the second time in the 2020 murder of a black man who is become part of a larger national judgment on racial injustice.

Travis McMichael reversed his intention to plead guilty in the federal case days after a U.S. District Court judge rejected the terms of a plea deal between defense attorneys and prosecutors which was met with objections passion from Arbery’s parents. Her father, Greg McMichael, backed out of a plan to plead guilty in a legal filing Thursday night.

U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood said jury selection in the hate crimes track would begin on Monday.

The McMichaels and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, were convicted of murder in Georgia state court last fall and sentenced to life in prison. Georgia did not have a hate crimes law at the time of the murder. The US Department of Justice had them indicted for violating Arbery’s civil rights and targeting him for being black.

The McMichaels armed themselves and chased Arbery in a van after spotting the 25-year-old man driving past their home just outside the port city of Brunswick on February 23, 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun.

The father and son had planned to plead guilty to a hate crime charge after prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to offer a 30-year sentence that would include a request to transfer the McMichaels from the prison system. State of Georgia to federal custody. The deal would have required the McMichaels to admit racial motives and waive the right to appeal their federal sentence.

Wood rejected the deal on Monday after Arbery’s parents argued that conditions in federal prison wouldn’t be as harsh. Wood said she ultimately turned down the deal because it would have locked her into a specific sentence.

Prosecutors asked the judge to approve the plea deals over objections from Arbery’s family. Attorney Tara Lyons said lawyers for Arbery’s parents told the US Justice Department the family would not object.

But Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s mother, said the slain man’s family had previously rejected the same terms and “didn’t want to engage anymore” with prosecutors, who “took it as a postponement. “.

During the murder trial in state court, defense attorneys argued that the McMichaels were justified in prosecuting Arbery because they had a reasonable suspicion that he had committed crimes in their neighborhood. Travis McMichael testified that he opened fire with his shotgun after Arbery attacked him with his fists and tried to grab the gun.

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