Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael have both received second life sentences for federal hate crimes in addition to their previous state murder life sentences in the deadly shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.
The life sentences were handed down on Monday in federal court. They were sentenced in state court in November last year, with no possibility of parole.
The McMichaels, aged 36 and 66, are two of the three men convicted of killing Arbery on 23 February 2020. Neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, was sentenced to 35 years for his role in his own hearing on Monday.
US District Judge Lisa Wood rejected Travis McMichael’s request to be sent to federal custody because of safety concerns that other prisoners could impose a “backdoor death penalty” in state lockup, Law & Crime reported.
“I do deny that request, and turn instead to the rules that apply,” Judge Wood said, citing that the state of Georgia was first to charge, try, convict, and sentence Travis McMichael.
Judge Wood said she remembered the footage of the younger McMichael shooting Mr Arbery with a shotgun as she handed down the 36-year-old’s sentence.
“You acted because of the colour of Mr Arbery’s skin,” she said, according to Reuters.
Arbery, a Black man, was out for a run in Satilla Shores near Brunswick on the coastline of southeastern Georgia when he was pursued by the McMichaels and Bryan more than two years ago. The chase ended with Travis McMichael shooting Arbery dead in the street while Bryan filmed video that prompted international outrage.
During trial, all three defendants claimed that they thought Arbery was behind a number of burglaries in the neighbourhood, but the evidence only revealed that he had entered a construction site to have a look around.
The three men were convicted of Arbery’s murder by a Georgia state jury. Bryan is the only one who may receive parole after 30 years as his role in the killing was considered to be more restricted, according to a state judge.
The three men were then found to have violated Arbery’s rights “because of his race and color” after a federal jury heard racist comments they had made, according to Law & Crime.
Arbery’s family objected before the subsequent federal trial to a plea agreement that would have seen the men partly serve their sentences in the custody of federal authorities, pushing the court to have them stay in the custody of the state.
“These three devils have broken my heart into pieces that can’t be found or repaired,” father Marcus Arbery said in the courtroom.
“You hate Black people,” he said to Travis McMichael, Reuters reported.
“Your honor, I feel every shot that was fired every day,” mother Wanda Cooper-Jones told the judge. “Every morning, I wake up and tell myself it’s another day without my ‘Quez.’”
“I struggled to come to the realization that a father could actually accompany his son to take a life,” she said during Gregory McMichael’s sentencing hearing, according to the news agency.
Uncle Gary Arbery told the court that the three men were “still trying to beat the system”.
“We miss everything about you. I pray that you can rest in peace, my sweet boy,” aunt Dianne Arbery added. “You are free to run wherever you choose to run in heaven, my sweet boy.”
The McMichaels and Bryan were sentenced to life in prison on the state murder charges in November of last year and convicted in federal court in February of this year for violating Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race.
The federal jury also found the three men guilty of attempted kidnapping and the two McMichaels were found guilty of violating gun legislation, according to The Washington Post.
Travis McMichael’s lawyer Amy Lee Copeland told the court on Monday that the 36-year-old has been the target of hundreds of threats and could be harmed if sent to state custody.
“I’m concerned that my client faces an effective backdoor death penalty,” she said.
“I understand the rich irony, judge, of expressing that my client will face vigilante justice himself,” she added.
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