A Federal Agency Jury in the Southern District of Georgia has charged three Americans with hate crimes and attempted kidnap of a Black man, Ahmaud Arbery.
Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. were charged with malice and felony murder in Arbery's death, which sparked national outrage after a video of his shooting was made public.
Arbery was jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, when he was fatally shot in 2020, CNN reports.
Two of these suspects are indicted with separate counts of using dangerous weapons that might have led to Arbery’s death.
He was murdered on February 23, 2020, in Satilla Shores, a neighbourhood near Brunswick in Glynn County, Georgia.
It, however, established that one of them, Travis McMichael will be charged with malice murder that led to the eventual gruesome killing of Arbery.
The United States Attorney’s Office revealed this in a press release on Wednesday.
“Three Georgia men were indicted today by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia and charged with hate crimes and the attempted kidnapping of Ahmaud Arbery. The indictment also charges two of the men with separate counts of using firearms during that crime of violence.
“Travis McMichael, 35; Travis’s father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and William “Roddie” Bryan, 51, were each charged with one count of interference with rights and with one count of attempted kidnapping. Travis and Gregory McMichael were also charged with one count each of using, carrying, and brandishing—and in Travis’s case, discharging—a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
“Counts One and Two of the indictment allege that the defendants used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race.
“Specifically, Count One of the indictment alleges that as Arbery was running on a public street in the Satilla Shores neighbourhood of Brunswick, Georgia, Travis and Gregory McMichael armed themselves with firearms, got into a truck, and chased Arbery through the public streets of the neighbourhood while yelling at him, using their truck to cut off his route, and threatening him with firearms.
“Count One also alleges that the offense resulted in Arbery’s death. Count Two alleges that William “Roddie” Bryan joined the chase and used his truck to cut off Arbery’s route,” the statement partly read.
The statement exposed how Arbery was chased by these suspects with their trucks, which was tantamount to restriction of his movement, including how they wielded guns to the victim’s detriment.
According to New York Times, “The three defendants — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and their neighbour William Bryan, 52 — face sentences of up to life in prison for the state crimes.
“The verdict suggested that the jury agreed with prosecutors’ arguments that Arbery posed no imminent threat to the men and that the men had no reason to believe he had committed a crime, giving them no legal right to chase him through their suburban neighbourhood.
“The case has been one of the most closely watched trials with civil rights overtones in the United States since the April murder conviction of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was captured in a bystander video kneeling on the neck of another unarmed Black man, George Floyd, for roughly nine minutes. The video of that incident created an international uproar and raised serious questions about the treatment of minorities at the hands of police.
“The slaying of Mr. Arbery was also captured on a videotape that was widely viewed by the public. And the trial of his accused killers also brought up issues of policing — although in this case, it involved questions about private citizens and their rights to detain people who they believe to be breaking the law.
“Those rights in Georgia were spelled out in a controversial Civil War-era statute that was significantly weakened by state lawmakers in direct response to the outrage over the Arbery killing. Lawmakers also passed Georgia’s first-ever hate crimes law as a result of the incident.”
It also stated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is on the case as the three defendants are facing cases of malice murder, aggravated assault among others.
“In addition to the hate-crime charges, Count Three alleges that all three defendants attempted to unlawfully seize and confine Arbery by chasing after him in their trucks in an attempt to restrain him, restrict his free movement, corral and detain him against his will, and prevent his escape.
“Counts Four and Five allege that during the course of the crime of violence charged in Count One, Travis used, carried, brandished, and discharged a Remington shotgun, and Gregory used, carried, and brandished a .357 Magnum revolver.
“All three defendants have also been charged in a separate state proceeding with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony. No trial date has been set for the state case.
“The announcement was made by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Acting U.S. Attorney David Estes of the Southern District of Georgia, and Special Agent in Charge J.C. Hacker of the FBI.
“This case was investigated by both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tara Lyons of the Southern District of Georgia, and Deputy Chief Bobbi Bernstein and Special Litigation Counsel Christopher J. Perras of the Civil Rights Division,” the statement added.
However, NBC stated that only one of the defendants. McMichael was guilty of malice murder in the case.
“But Travis McMichael, 35, the man wielding the shotgun and who pulled the trigger, was found guilty of an additional charge — malice murder — whereas his co-defendants, his father, Gregory McMichael, 65, and a neighbour, William "Roddie" Bryan, 52, were not.
“Page Pate, a Georgia defence lawyer who is not affiliated with the case, said the jury's finding makes sense.
“Malice murder, he said, is akin to a first-degree murder charge in other states. According to Georgia law, it means someone had a "deliberate intention unlawfully to take the life of another human being" in which they weren't provoked and demonstrated "an abandoned and malignant heart" — or essentially, it was done out of ill will.”
But in contrast, according to CNN, Arbery’s aunt, Theawanza Brooks said all the three suspects were guilty of killing her nephew.
“They’ll get the same treatment that we have, knowing that Ahmaud will never come home again, so they shouldn’t be able to go home either,” Brooks said.
There are reports that sentencing is slated for the coming weeks.