Travis McMichael, pictured here in a police booking photo, was given another life sentence on Monday on a federal hare crimes conviction stemming from the death of Ahmaud Arbery in 2020. Photo courtesy the Glynn County Detention Center/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 8 (UPI) -- The father and son already in prison for chasing down and killing Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery two years ago were given additional life sentences on Monday for committing federal hate crimes.
Travis McMichael, 36, was given the additional life sentence plus 10 years at the first of three hearings in U.S. District Court in Brunswick, Ga., on Monday morning. Later Monday afternoon his father, 64-year-old Gregory McMichael, was also given an additional life sentence, while their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan, 52, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
"A young man is dead. Ahmaud Arbery will forever be 25. And what happened, a jury found, happened because he's Black." U.S. District Judge Lisa Golbey Wood said during the elder McMichael's sentencing.
Prosecutors had sought life sentences for all three men but Golbey Wood said she believed it was necessary to distinguish Bryan from the McMichaels, because he did not bring a firearm to the scene, but said he was "still deserving of an awfully long sentence."
The McMichaels asked to be sent to a federal prison -- citing concerns about rampant inmate violence in state-run prisons as the Justice Department is conducting an investigation into Georgia's prisons based on the reports of inmate violence.
The judge, however, rejected the requests and ordered that all three men serve their sentences in state prison.
Travis McMichael was convicted of federal hate crimes in February along with his father and Bryan, all of whom are White. Each of the men were convicted in state court and sentenced to life in prison for killing Arbery on Feb. 23, 2020.
Bryan and the McMichaels were sentenced to life in prison in state court in January for shooting the 25-year-old Black man to death as he jogged through a neighborhood near Brunswick, Ga.
The jury in the federal case found the defendants guilty of violating Arbery's civil rights by targeting and attempting to kidnap him because he was Black.
The younger McMichael, who fired the bullets that killed Arbery, was also found guilty of using a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
A crowd gathers near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 2020. The aim of the march was a call to justice to end police brutality in light of a rash of recent killings of Black Americans by police officers, including Ahmaud Arbery. File Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI
At the time, the Brunswick District Attorney's Office declined to immediately bring charges in the case because Gregory McMichael had previously worked there as an investigator.
No arrests were made for more than two months until a cellphone video of the shooting, taken by Bryan, emerged on social media and caused an uproar from national civil rights advocates.
The cellphone footage showed the McMichaels chasing Arbery in a pickup truck before blocking his path and shooting him to death after a brief struggle.
During trial, federal prosecutors presented evidence of text messages and social media posts in which Bryan and the McMichaels repeatedly used racial slurs. They told police that they suspected that Arbery had been stealing from a home that was under construction in the area. Police said Arbery was not armed and hadn't committed any crime.
Arbery's death and the police killings of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020 helped galvanize the Black Lives Matter movement and produced numerous other demonstrations nationwide against police brutality.
Gregory McMichael addressed Arbery's family during Monday's hearing, telling them "the loss you've endured is beyond description."
"There's no words for it," he said.
He also apologized to his son, who did not speak before the court, saying he should have "never put him in that situation" and that he "never wanted any of this to happen."
"There was no malice in my heart, or my son's heart, that day," he said.
Bryan also said he was sorry to Arbery's family "for what happened to him on that day" adding that he "never intended any harm to him."
Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery, said ahead of the sentencing that "these three devils have broken my heart into pieces that cannot be found or repaired" while calling for the most severe sentence possible.
"You killed him because he was a Black man and you hate Black people," he said.