DOJ, Defense, Rests Its Case In Hate Crimes Trial Of Men Who Killed Ahmaud Arbery

The prosecution and defense both rested Friday in the trial of the three white men charged with a federal hate crime in the murder of Black 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.

U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood dismissed jurors, who are slated to hear closing arguments Monday in the trial of Greg and Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan. The jury will begin deliberations once final arguments are made.

Travis McMichael’s former supervisor Joe Mandela testified Friday that he received a call from McMichael on Feb. 23, 2020, the day Arbery was fatally shot. McMichael, who was working as a government contractor for Metson Marine at the time, told Mandela that he had shot and killed someone who was doing break-ins.

Mandela testified that McMichael, 36, told him he had shot Arbery, 25, in self-defense and that he was not being charged in the shooting.

After the video surfaced showing McMichael fatally shooting Arbery at close range, Mandela said he was “upset” and alerted their employer about the video. McMichael’s security badge was then taken away.

A woman who served in the Coast Guard with McMichael said he referred to her as a “n****r lover” because she dated a Black man. She also said he had made sexually lewd comments toward her.

During their opening arguments, which began Monday, prosecutors presented evidence that Travis McMichael and Bryan had an extensive history of using racial slurs and making racist comments toward Black people. The government argued Arbery was chased down and killed because of the “color of his skin.”

A mural depicting Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery, 25, was murdered on Feb. 23, 2020.
A mural depicting Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery, 25, was murdered on Feb. 23, 2020.

AP Photo/Sarah Blake Morgan, File

Throughout the week, prosecutors presented 19 different witnesses, including Amy Vaughn, an FBI agent who obtained messages from the phones of McMichael and Bryan.

Vaughn detailed several instances dating back to 2019 in which Travis McMichael made racist comments about Black people in private text messages and in comments on social media.

In one instance, McMichael described Black people as “subhuman savages.” In another, he responded to a friend’s Facebook post by saying he wished a firecracker “blew that n****rs head off.”

Bryan’s history of racist comments included messages in which he expressed disapproval of his daughter dating a Black man.

“She’s got her a n***** now,” Bryan, 52, said in private messages.

Arbery was gunned down while running near a construction site in the neighborhood of Satilla Shores, Georgia. Bryan, Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, chased Arbery while driving two different pickup trucks. The younger McMichael shot and killed Arbery at close range during the pursuit.

In the state murder trial, prosecutors argued that the McMichaels and Bryan made “drive-way decisions” that factored into the killing of Arbery.

All three men were convicted of felony murder. They were sentenced to life in prison in January. Only Bryan’s sentence offers the possibility of parole.

The defense did not bring any witnesses forward for Travis McMichael or Bryan. One witness was brought forward on behalf of Gregory McMichael, 65.

The McMichaels and Bryan are all charged with a hate crime violating Arbery’s civil rights and face attempted kidnapping charges.

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