BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The father and son convicted of murder in 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting were sentenced Monday to life in prison for committing a federal hate crime.
A U.S. District Court judge sentenced Travis McMichael and his father Greg McMichael in Brunswick. Both were previously sentenced to life without parole in a state court for Arbery’s murder. Neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, who recorded cellphone video of the slaying, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
RELATED: Father, son get life for hate crime in Ahmaud Arbery’s death
After being found guilty and sentenced in both state and federal courts -- there’s question of why the McMichaels and Bryan would ask to be housed in a federal prison opposed to a state prison.
Page Pate, a federal and state criminal defense attorney in Georgia, described the difference between federal prison and state prison like night and day when it comes to inmate safety.
“The state prison system in Georgia is overcrowded. There (are) very few opportunities for any type of rehab. There’s a lot of violence: Inmate on inmate, inmate on guard, even guard on inmate,” he said.
Pate said add to all that staffing shortages, and he described the conditions in a Georgia state prison as horrific.
“In fact, the current Department of Corrections in Georgia is under federal investigation for some of the institutions being so bad that they’re continually depriving the inmates of basic constitutional rights,” Pate said.
It’s why lawyers for Travis McMichael and his father, Greg, both asked that their clients be housed in federal prison to serve their life sentences.
Travis McMichael’s attorney told the judge his client has received hundreds of death threats from state prison. His father cited health issues when asking to remain where they’ve been -- in federal custody awaiting their hate crime sentencings.
But because the father and son were first charged and convicted of murder in a state court, they’ll be turned back over to the Georgia Department of Corrections to serve their life terms in a state prison.
Curtis Fallgatter, a former assistant federal prosecutor, said that an attorney’s goal is always prison on the federal level, if there’s a choice.
“Air conditioning, medical care, training programs, education, libraries, -- all that is a lot better at the federal level than the state level, mostly because of the federal funding, the resources,” Fallgatter said.
Pate explained -- there’s only one way out of state prison for the McMichaels and Bryan.
“And that is if the state Department of Corrections in Georgia says, ‘We don’t want these people.’ You know, ‘They’re a security risk here,’” he said.
Bryan asked to serve his federal sentence first -- in which he was given 35 years. The judge denied that request as well. Bryan was sentenced to life in state prison first and must serve that sentence.