ATLANTA (AP) – Three white men were charged with murder by Ahmaud Arbery, a black man shot dead while running in a suburban neighborhood near the Georgia coast.
Prosecutor Joyette Holmes announced that a grand jury has indicted Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. on charges including malice and serious murder in Arbery’s death.
“This is another positive step, another great step to find justice for Ahmaud, to find justice for this family and the community beyond,” Holmes said at a news conference outside the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick that was broadcast online. by the media.
Arbery’s death has often been invoked during protests against racial injustice that have erupted across the country since the death of George Floyd last month under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer. Arbery’s death also fueled renewed momentum for a state hate crime law in Georgia, which state lawmakers passed Tuesday.
McMichaels’ attorneys warned that he will not be too quick to judge and said the full story will go to court. A Bryan attorney has argued that his client was simply a witness.
Arbery was killed on February 23 when Greg and Travis McMichael, a white father and son, armed themselves and chased the 25-year-old black man running in their neighborhood. Greg McMichael told police that he suspected Arbery was a thief and that Arbery attacked his son before he was shot. Arbery’s family has said he went running.
Bryan lives in the same subdivision, just outside the port city of Brunswick. Bryan said he saw the McMichaels pass and joined the chase, a Georgia Investigative Bureau agent Richard Dial testified earlier this month at a probable cause hearing.
It was not until May 7, two days after Bryan’s cell phone video leaked online and sparked a national protest, that the McMichaels were arrested. Bryan was arrested on May 22, and an arrest warrant said he tried to “confine and detain” Arbery without legal authority by “using his vehicle multiple times” before he was shot.
Bryan told investigators that Travis McMichael cursed and said a racist insult as he stood on Arbery, moments after he fatally shot him, Dial testified.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case after the video was released. The state attorney general appointed Holmes, who is the district attorney in Cobb County, near Atlanta, to prosecute after the local district attorney challenged herself because Greg McMichael had worked for her, and others two external prosecutors also walked away.
In addition to the wrongful death and manslaughter charges, the McMichaels and Bryan are charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count of false imprisonment and criminal attempts to commit false imprisonment.
Under Georgia law, a felony murder charge means that a death occurred during the commission of an underlying felony and does not require an intention to kill. Murder by malice requires “willful malice, either expressed or implied.” Any Georgia murder conviction carries a minimum sentence of life in prison, with or without the possibility of parole.
The functions of the court in Georgia have been severely limited in recent months due to a state judicial emergency declared by the president of the state Supreme Court in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Holmes said they were able to call a grand jury that had been impaled prior to the judicial emergency.
Attorneys for Arbery’s mother and father issued statements applauding the accusation and emphasizing their desire to see the three men convicted and sentenced for their death.
Bob Rubin, attorney for Travis McMichael, 34, said in an email that prosecutors choose the facts they want to present to a grand jury when seeking an indictment. The defense team has found other facts “that are an integral part of the case,” he wrote.
“In the face of this indictment, Travis McMichael will plead not guilty, and we hope to present all the facts related to this tragic death in a court of law,” Rubin wrote.
Attorney Kevin Gough, who represents Bryan, 50, spoke to reporters in county court just after Holmes announced the accusation.
“We welcome today’s grand jury action,” said Gough. “While we disagree with this, it is an important step in the process to bring this case closer to the speedy trial that Roddie has demanded.”
He said his client has committed no crime and has cooperated with law enforcement officers from the beginning.
Lawyers for Greg McMichael, 64, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.
Even if Governor Brian Kemp signs the state hate crime legislation passed this week, it could not retroactively apply to this case, Holmes told reporters. The US Department of Justice. USA He has said he is evaluating whether federal hate crime charges are appropriate.