ATLANTA - The father and son convicted of murdering Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery nearly two years ago near Brunswick were sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In a case that received national attention and led to an overhaul of Georgia’s citizens arrest law, a third defendant received life with a chance for parole in 30 years based on the prosecution’s recommendation.
Arbery, 25, was shot to death in February 2020 after Greg McMichael and his son, Travis, chased him down a street in the Satilla Shores neighborhood in a pickup truck after observing him on the property of a nearby home under construction.
With the help of William “Roddie” Bryan, who drove a second truck, the men cornered Arbery, and Travis McMichael pulled the trigger.
The three were convicted of a range of murder charges last November by a jury made up of 11 white jurors and one Black juror.
Before Friday’s sentencing, Arbery’s parents and sister asked Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley to impose the maximum sentence on the defendants.
“They were fully committed to the crime,” said Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother. “Let them be fully committed to the consequences.”
In imposing the maximum sentence on the McMichaels, Walmsley said neither showed any remorse for the murder. The judge cited Greg McMichael’s threats to Arbery heard on a video of the crime shot by Bryan and the “chilling, truly disturbing” picture of Travis McMichael taking aim at Arbery with a shotgun.
“The record speaks for itself,” Walmsley said. “Ahmaud Arbery was hunted down and shot. He was killed because individuals in this courtroom took the law into their own hands. … Taking the law into your own hands is a dangerous endeavor.”
Gov. Brian Kemp and the General Assembly reacted to the McMichaels’ vigilantism last year with a bill essentially repealing Georgia’s 19th-century citizens arrest law.
Owners of retail shops and restaurants are still permitted to detain shoplifters on their premises, while police officers who are off-duty or outside their jurisdiction can make arrests if they witness a crime or have knowledge a crime was recently committed.
In sentencing Bryan to life with a possibility of parole after 30 years, Walmsley said the third defendant did demonstrate remorse by showing he had “grave concerns” about the killing at the crime scene. However, Bryan still shared responsibility for the murder by blocking Arbery’s escape with his truck, the judge said.
The three defendants also are facing federal hate-crime charges, with a trial set to begin next month.