SAVANNAH, Georgia (AP) – Three Georgian men were scheduled to appear before a federal judge on Tuesday on federal hate crime charges in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was prosecuted and shot after being spotted in running. the district of the defendants.
Indictments before U.S. investigating magistrate Benjamin Cheesbro were scheduled for Tuesday afternoon as federal prosecutors continued their case, even with state murder charges still pending against the same defendants. A Georgian judge has set a trial in the state’s case for October and will hear preliminary motions later this week.
Greg McMichael and his adult son, Travis McMichael, armed themselves and pursued Arbery in a van after he drove past their home on February 23, 2020. A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase and took a video of Travis on a cell phone. McMichael shooting Arbery three times at close range with a shotgun.
On April 28, the Justice Department charged McMichaels and Bryan, all white, with violating Arbery’s civil rights and attempted kidnapping for using their trucks and guns to attempt to detain him. The McMichaels were also charged with using firearms in the commission of a crime.
According to the federal indictment, the three men unlawfully used force to “hurt, intimidate and interfere with” the young black man “because of Arbery’s race and color.” If they are found guilty of violating Arbery’s rights, they could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Defense attorneys for the McMichaels and Bryans insist they have committed no crime. Lawyers for the McMichaels said they sued Arbery because they suspected he was a burglar who was videotaped inside a nearby house under construction. They say Travis McMichael shot Arbery fearing for his life as they grabbed a shotgun.
Prosecutors say Arbery was just jogging and there is no evidence Arbery stole anything from the house.
The three defendants have been jailed without bail since their arrest for state murder a year ago. They initially remained free for more than two months after Arbery’s murder, but were quickly charged after the video of Bryan’s cell phone became public and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from the local police.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley on Friday ordered jury selection in the state case to begin Oct. 18, with the McMichaels and Bryan trial once a jury is seated.
The judge has scheduled hearings on 12 preliminary motions for Wednesday and Thursday at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, about 112 kilometers south of Savannah.
Walmsley must decide whether the trial jury should be allowed to hear unflattering evidence of Arbery’s background with law enforcement, as well as racist text messages and social media posts posted or shared by the men who pursued and killed him.
Defense attorneys for the McMichaels want the jury to know about 10 incidents from Arbery’s past, including that he was on probation when he was killed. Court records show Arbery pleaded guilty to charges that he carried a gun on a high school campus in 2013, a year after graduating, as well as to a charge of home theft. display for stealing a television from a Walmart store in 2017.
Defense attorneys argued in their written motion that these incidents reinforce their argument that Arbery was not an innocent jogger, but “would use running or jogging as a blanket to commit crimes” and which the McMichaels had to say. good reason to suspect he was a burglar.
Prosecutors say Arbery’s past is irrelevant given that neither of the defendants knew him before the fatal prosecution or was aware of any of his past issues.
“The sole purpose of bringing Mr. Arbery’s ‘other acts’ to a jury is to smear Mr. Arbery’s character and suggest that his murder was deserved,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have asked the judge to allow jurors to view text messages and social media posts they say show a lack of “racial goodwill” on the part of the three defendants. They include a 2019 text message exchange in which Travis McMichael twice uses a racist insult to black people.
GBI agent Richard Dial said Bryan told investigators Travis McMichael used a racist insult as he stood over Arbery as he bled on the street. Jason Sheffield, an attorney for Travis McMichael, said his client denies making the remark.