August 11, 2022

By Dr. Valerie Wardlaw

Contributing Writer


Gregory and Travis McMichael, the father, and son convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery, were sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood to life in prison for their federal hate-crime convictions.

The McMichaels were convicted of the hate-crime charge of interference with rights and attempted kidnapping in February of this year.


Travis McMichael, 36, was given life plus an additional 10-year sentence for using a firearm in the commission of the crime, and Gregory McMichael, 66, was given life plus an additional seven-year term for brandishing a weapon.

The hate-crime sentences will run concurrently with the life sentences each man already received for state charges, and the additional punishments for the firearms will run consecutively.







Their neighbor, William Bryan, 52, who joined the McMichael’s in chasing Arbery through their Georgia neighborhood and recorded the killing on his cell phone, also received a sentence of 35 years.


While the McMichaels are not eligible for parole, Bryan is eligible for parole after he serves 30 years. “By the time you’ve served your federal sentence, you will be close to 90 years old.

But, again, Mr. Arbery never got the chance to be 26,” Judge Wood said.


The three men requested to serve their sentences in a federal facility after their lawyers cited threats against the younger McMichael and the health of the elder McMichael.

Judge Wood rejected both requests stating that the men would go to state prison first because they were first prosecuted for murder by state authorities. Judge Wood said she had spent time thinking about the appropriate sentences for the men.

She noted that the men had received a fair trial, which she presided over; “the kind of trial that Ahmaud Arbery did not receive before he was shot and killed,” Wood said.

In her final remarks, the Judge ruled that the three defendants would be remanded to state custody to begin their sentences.

Federal prosecutors proved that Arbery’s killing was motivated by racism after showing dozens of text messages and posts on Travis McMichael’s and William Bryan’s social media pages where they made racial slurs about Black people.

The murder of Arbery sparked outrage across the country as most Civil Rights organizations called it a “modern-day lynching.”



Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, spoke to reporters after the sentencing, “I’m very thankful. It’s been a long fight. I’m so thankful God gave us the strength to continue to fight.” 


The men were allowed to address the court and the Arbery family; however, Travis McMichael, who fired the fatal shots, declined to address the court.

His father, Gregory McMichael, did address the Arbery family, saying, “The loss you’ve endured is beyond description.

I’m sure my words mean very little to you, but I want to assure you I never wanted any of this to happen.

There was no malice in my heart or my son’s heart that day.” 

William Bryan also addressed the Arbery family, saying, “I’m glad to finally have the chance to say to Arbery’s family and friends how sorry I am for what happened to him on that day. I never intended any harm to him.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “The Justice Department does not investigate or prosecute people because of their ideology or the views they hold, no matter how vile. But the Justice Department does have the authority — and will not hesitate to act — when individuals commit violent acts that are motivated by bias or hatred. No one in this country should have to fear the threat of

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