BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — The three men convicted of murder in Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting were found guilty of federal hate crimes Tuesday for violating Arbery’s civil rights and targeting him because he was Black.
The jury reached its decision after several hours of deliberation on the charges against father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan.
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 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.
What Is a Hate Crime?
The federal government and almost all 50 states have hate crime laws. A hate crime is defined as attacking a person because of a specific characteristic. Common grounds for a hate crime include race, religion, or national origin.
Under federal law, U.S. Code section 249 defines a hate crime as “willfully causing bodily injury to any person or … attempting to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person.” Normally, the punishment for a hate crime is a maximum of 10 years in prison. However, if the hate crime involved kidnapping, sexual assault (attempted or completed), attempted murder, or resulted in death, then the punishment can be any length of time up to life in prison.