Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, were all given life in prison in the Ahmaud Arbery sentencing on Friday. McMichael and his father were also given an additional 20 years without the possibility of parole, while William ‘Roddie’ Bryan was granted the possibility for parole after 30 years.
The three men were found guilty back in November, for the murder of Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was fatally shot while jogging home in Georgia. They were each expected to face life in prison.
Judge Timothy Walmsley explained his reasoning after reading quotes from the defendants made during the trial, which he said “spoke for themselves.” He called video of the event “chilling” and expressed his dissatisfaction that sentencing does not often provide closure for most families, only accountability.
“I believe that assuming the worst in others we show our worst character,” he said.
Judge Walmsely agreed, however, that Bryan showed remorse in his testimony, which is why he was given the possibility of parole in his life sentencing.
Though murder is punishable under the death penalty in Georgia, prosecutors stated that they would instead ask for life behind bars, which they felt was the “appropriate sentence.”
Prosecutors also revealed that the Department of Justice asked Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, if she would accept a plea deal in the Ahmaud Arbery sentencing. They reportedly offered her a plea from the three defendants where they would be sentenced to 30 years in federal prison, which she refused.
“I really don’t want to hear anything from Travis. I really don’t want to hear anything from either defendants. There’s nothing that they can tell me today that would make me feel better. I miss Ahmaud more and more each day,” Cooper-Jones testified at the sentencing hearing on Friday.
“Ahmaud didn’t get a chance to live. So with that being said, Travis should not get a chance to live as a free man. Travis should go to prison for life without parole and … he should remain in prison forever,” she stated.
Ahmaud Arbery’s sister, Jasmine, and his father, Marcus, also gave powerful statements, speaking about the trauma and tragedy of losing their son through senseless, racist violence.
“Not only did they lynch my son in broad daylight, but they killed him while he was doing what he loved more than anything: running,” Marcus Arbery testified. “That’s when he felt most alive, most free. And they took all of that from him.”
He also mentioned at the Ahmaud Arbery sentencing that Travis McMichael sat every day in the courtroom with his father, who was also convicted in the murder, which is something that he could never do again since they killed his son.
When the jury read the three men’s guilty verdict back in late November, Arbery’s father Marcus allegedly yelled “Woohoo!” in excitement after initial doubts that a nearly all white jury would have acquitted them on all charges.
The defense attorney for Travis McMichael then spoke at the Ahmaud Arbery sentencing and asked for more leniency. Attorney Bob Rubin stating that Travis did not have a “darkness of soul,” and would not be a threat to anyone after 30 years in prison. He asked the court for life with the possibility of parole in 30 years.
“When he’s in his 60s,” Rubin stated, “Do we still need, want, a person like Travis McMichael behind bars?”
Travis’ father Gregory McMichael, who also took part in Arbery’s murder, is 66 years old.
His lawyer, Laura Hogue, said that the jury found in November that Greg was “a party to the crime committed felonies that unintentionally lead to Ahmaud Arbery’s death,” stressing the jury’s decision that while he helped commit murder, it was unintentional.
“So, if life without parole is a sentence that is held for only the worst of the worst,” she continued, “it simply can’t be a sentence for a person who never intended that tragic result.”
Hogue described the event as a “driveway decision” and said that George McMichael was “a man of goodness.”
Lawyers for William “Roddie” Bryan also attempted to distance their client from the McMichael’s and ask for a more lenient sentence that included parole after 30 years.
After the Ahmaud Arbery sentencing hearing on Friday, the three men will also have to appear in court again on an unspecified date for separate federal hate crime charges.