Recused prosecutor: Man accused in Ahmaud Arbery shooting was involved in prior investigation of him

BRUNSWICK, GA - MAY 06: A cross with flowers and a letter "A" sits at the entrance to the Satilla Shores neighborhood where Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed on May 6, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Attorneys for Arbery released a video that appears to show the 25-year-old being gunned down while jogging during a confrontation with an armed father and son on February 23. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images) (Sean Rayford, 2020 Getty Images)

One of the men accused in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery was involved in a previous prosecution of Arbery, according to a letter written by a prosecutor who has since recused himself from the case.

In an April 7 letter (listed at end of article), Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill wrote that his son and the suspect, Gregory McMichael, helped with an earlier prosecution of Arbery when they both worked for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.

Gregory McMichael, 64, and his 34-year-old son, Travis McMichael, were arrested Thursday evening and face charges or murder and aggravated assault in Arbery's killing on February 23, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Barnhill was the second prosecutor to oversee the case after the Brunswick DA recused herself due to her office's previous connection to McMichael. Barnhill said in the letter he believed it best to recuse his office from the case given the connections between his son, McMichael and Arbery.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported Barnhill's letter stating McMichael previously investigated Arbery.

Barnhill's letter, sent to the office of Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, did not specify what the prior prosecution was for or when it took place.

The Brunswick News has reported Arbery was indicted for allegedly bringing a gun to a 2013 high school basketball game when he was 19. Family attorney Lee Merritt has acknowledged Arbery's 2018 arrest on shoplifting charges. But any reference to "alleged conduct from high school or shoplifting is absurd and has nothing to do with his murder," Merritt said.

"We've been here before" whether it's Tamir Rice or Trayvon Martin," said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Arbery's father. "When they kill our children, they then try to assassinate their character and I know they're going to do that with Ahmaud Arbery."

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The case prompted outrage in recent days over the fact the McMichaels, who are white, had not been arrested more than two months after Arbery, a black man, was killed while jogging through a neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia.

That day, according to a police report, the McMichaels allegedly chased Arbery down in a pickup truck, believing he was a suspect in a string of burglaries.

McMichael told police his son shot Arbery after the latter allegedly attacked him as he stood in the road with a shotgun, according to the police report.

But those who knew Arbery said the former high school football player often jogged through the neighborhoods southwest of Brunswick. His loved ones described him as a “very good young man.”

"His heart was always in the right place. And he just loved people," said his father, Marcus Arbery Sr., Friday on CNN's New Day, on what would have been his son's 26th birthday.

"I just want justice for my son," he said. "I just want them to pay the price for the crime they did."

Marcus Arbery Sr. likened his son's killing to a modern-day lynching.

"Anytime you pursue a young man, go jump in a truck with shotguns and a pistol ... and you follow him and slaughter him like that, that's lynching," he said.

Both men made brief court appearances via video on Friday at which the judge read the charges against them and said bond would be set at another time. It’s unclear whether they are represented by attorneys.

The letter from Barnhill reads: