Arbery’s killers sentenced on federal counts, sent to state prison

The three men already convicted and sentenced to life in prison for killing Ahmaud Arbery were given decades more behind bars Monday for federal hate-crime violations — and told they must serve their time in state prison, which they contend will be far more dangerous for them.

Travis McMichael; his father, Gregory McMichael; and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan appeared in back-to-back hearings in U.S. District Court in Brunswick, Ga., asking a judge to send them to a federal penitentiary.

Amy Lee Copeland, the attorney for Travis McMichael, 36, said he has received hundreds of threats and faced “an effective backdoor death penalty” if sent to Georgia state prison — a system that Copeland noted is under federal investigation for alleged violent and deplorable conditions.

But Arbery’s family vehemently opposed allowing his killers to choose where they would be incarcerated, noting that the young Black man who was gunned down while jogging in February 2020 will never be able to make choices about his life again.

“How can you ask for mercy? You didn’t give my boy no mercy,” Marcus Arbery said as he asked U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood to hand down the “stiffest penalty that the court allows.”

The pursuit and killing of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, became part of the impassioned debate over racial injustice spurred by the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville that same year.

President Biden’s Justice Department has pursued federal civil rights charges in all three cases, convicting the officers involved in Floyd’s killing in December and February, and charging officers involved in the raid that led to Taylor’s death last week.

“Hate crimes have no place in our country,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement after Monday’s sentencings. “Protecting civil rights and combatting white supremacist violence was a founding purpose of the Justice Department, and one that we will continue to pursue with the urgency it demands.”