U.S. prosecutors and assistant AG respond to calls from Arbery’s killers

June 10 – Lawyers for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Assistant Attorney General say Ahmaud Arbery would still be alive today if he hadn’t been a black man running on public streets and that the hate crime convictions of his killers should appear in federal court.

A 57-page brief filed June 2 in response to appeals by Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan, the three men convicted of killing Arbery in February 2020, said the jury in the case had correctly determined guilt based on the evidence presented at trial of a history of racism by the three men. That story and their actions to chase Arbery through the streets of the Satilla Shores neighborhood in pickup trucks and ultimately kill him meet federal standards for a hate crime, according to the brief.

“Ahmaud Arbery would be alive today if he hadn’t been a black man running through the public streets when the defendants pursued and killed him,” the memoir reads.

The three defendants are appealing the federal hate crime conviction to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, claiming that race did not motivate the actions of white men and that the federal government did not jurisdiction over a federal hate crime case because the streets in the subdivision are not public. They are also appealing the attempted kidnapping convictions.

The U.S. prosecutors’ brief addresses all three appeals and said the jury heard evidence about how the men “hated black people, associated black people with crime, and yearned for vigilante justice.”

These “toxic” views led the men to assume that because Arbery was black, he was a criminal, according to the memoir.

“The defendants assumed that because Arbery was a black man running the streets of their neighborhood that he must be a criminal, and they chased him down those streets for several minutes before killing him,” the memoir reads. .

Travis McMichael specifically argued in his appeal that the streets of Satilla Shores are not publicly maintained and are therefore private, preventing the federal government from having jurisdiction. The answer brief said the jury had enough evidence to convict Travis McMichael of a hate crime regardless of whether the streets where the crime occurred were public. He also argues that because the streets in the neighborhood are used by the public, the federal government has jurisdiction.

The brief also supports the three men’s attempted kidnapping convictions, saying the men do not dispute that they were attempting to unlawfully seize or confine Arbery. Rather, the defendants argue that they did not act to gain an advantage in so doing.

“With respect to the next element, that the defendants acted to gain an advantage, the evidence showed that the defendants wanted the personal satisfaction of inflicting self-defense justice on a black man whom they assumed to be a criminal , or even just an enhancement of their reputation as neighborhood crime preventers,” the brief says.

Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael were convicted of murder and other related charges in Glynn County Superior Court and sentenced in January 2022 to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Bryan, who was their accomplice, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

The trio were then convicted a month later of federal hate crimes in the Southern District of Georgia for attempting to kidnap Arbery and interfering with his right to use a public street because he was black. The McMichaels were also convicted of brandishing a firearm while committing a violent crime. Travis McMichael was also federally convicted of discharging a firearm while committing a violent crime.

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