BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The three men convicted in the 2020 killing of Ahmaud Arbery are set to be sentenced Friday.
Additional law enforcement will be on hand at the Glynn County Courthouse for this next phase of the highly publicized case.
A nine-count indictment charged Travis and Greg McMichael and Willam “Roddie” Bryan each with one count of malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
COMPLETE COVERAGE: Ahmaud Arbery case | Ahmaud Arbery’s family awaits sentencing of 3 men convicted in slaying
Travis McMichael, 35, was convicted of all nine charges. His 66-year-old father, Greg McMichael, was convicted of all charges except malice murder. Bryan, their 52-year-old neighbor, was convicted of three counts of felony murder and one count of aggravated assault, as well as false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Malice and felony murder convictions both carry a minimum penalty of life in prison. The judge decides whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole. Even if a chance of parole is granted, a person convicted of murder must serve 30 years before becoming eligible. Multiple murder convictions are merged for the purposes of sentencing.
Murder can also be punishable by death in Georgia if the killing meets certain criteria. Prosecutors chose not to seek the death penalty in the case of Arbery’s slaying.
Each count of aggravated assault carries a prison term of at least one year but not more than 20 years. False imprisonment is punishable by a sentence of one to 10 years in prison.
Page Pate, a Georgia attorney not affiliated with the case, says the real question will be whether the men get life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.
“People from the community could, if they choose to, come to court to say good things about them like ‘This is an aberration not reflective of who they were most of their lives.’ That’s the type of mitigating evidence I would expect the defense to present,” Pate said.
But Pate said the judge’s decision is usually based on what happened — not mitigating factors.
Security will be enhanced outside the courthouse on Friday. The Georgia State Patrol told News4JAX that there will be additional law enforcement on hand but not as many as for the trial itself because there’s “no intel about any problems” on the horizon.
News4JAX crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson says Georgia authorities learned a lot during the trial about how many officers they’ll need.
“Their intel from what they’ve been doing the whole time shows them that there’s not anything credible that they think will happen,” Jefferson said. “They’re taking precautions, let’s be clear on that. They’re taking the necessary precautions, but they’re not overly cautious with the same regard that they did with the trial.”
Meanwhile, federal authorities have charged the three men with hate crimes in Arbery’s death. That case is scheduled to go to trial in February.
On Feb. 23, 2020, the McMichaels armed themselves and pursued Arbery in a pickup truck after seeing him running in their neighborhood just outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick. Bryan hopped in his own truck and recorded video on his cellphone as he joined the pursuit, capturing the moments when Travis McMichael blasted Arbery with a shotgun.
Arbery’s killing became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice after the graphic video of his death leaked online two months later and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, quickly arresting the three men.