Brunswick (AP) — The three white men convicted of murder in Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting were found guilty of federal hate crimes and other lesser charges Tuesday for violating Arbery’s civil rights and targeting him because he was Black.
In addition to the federal hate crimes, the jury also found father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan guilty of attempted kidnapping, while the McMichaels were also found guilty of the use of a firearm in the commission of a crime.
During the trial, prosecutors showed roughly two dozen text messages and social media posts in which Travis McMichael and Bryan used racist slurs and made derogatory comments about Black people. The FBI wasn’t able to access Greg McMichael’s phone because it was encrypted.
The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue Arbery after seeing him running in their neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick in February 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery. The killing became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice after the graphic video leaked online two months later.
Defense attorneys contended the three didn’t chase and kill Arbery because of his race but acted on the earnest, though erroneous, suspicion that Arbery had committed crimes in their neighborhood.
The McMichaels and Bryan had pleaded not guilty to the hate crime charges.
The panel of eight white people, three Black people and one Hispanic person received the case Monday following a weeklong trial in U.S. District Court in the port city of Brunswick. The jurors adjourned for the night after about three hours of deliberations, and resumed deliberations at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The trial closed Monday with prosecutors saying 25-year-old Arbery’s slaying on a residential street was motivated by “pent-up racial anger,” revealed by the defendants’ electronic messages as well as by witnesses who testified to hearing them make racist tirades and insults.
“All three defendants told you loud and clear, in their own words, how they feel about African Americans,” prosecutor Tara Lyons told the jury Monday.
Defense attorneys insisted that past racist statements by their clients offered no proof they violated Arbery’s civil rights and targeted him because he’s Black. They urged the jury to set aside their emotions.
“It’s natural for you to want retribution or revenge,” said Pete Theodocion, representing William “Roddie” Bryan. “But we have to elevate ourselves … even if it’s the tough thing.”