Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu tweeted: “Life without the possibility of parole for Travis and Gregory McMichael [e]xcept William Bryan who gets [l]ife with possibility of parole. The 3 murderous racist b******s convicted of felony murder get life imprisonment for killing Ahmaud Arbery”.
A Georgia judge sentenced Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan to life in prison on Friday for what he called the “chilling” 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery, who had been running through their mostly white neighbourhood in the southern US state.
The McMichaels, a father and son, will now spend the rest of their lives in prison but Judge Timothy Walmsley ruled that Bryan could seek parole after 30 years in prison, the minimum sentence allowed for murder under the state’s law.
Walmsley said at the hearing in Glynn County Court in Brunswick that he gave the McMichaels the harshest sentence open to him in part because of their “callous” words and actions which were captured on video.
The judge said it was a “chilling, truly disturbing scene” of a frame in a cellphone video of the killing where McMichael begins to lift his shotgun at Mr Arbery while the 25-year-old is about 20 feet away.
He said Mr Arbery was hunted down, shot and killed because individuals in the courtroom took the law into their own hands.
Previously, Mr Arbery’s family addressed the court to argue that racial stereotyping led to the killing of the avid jogger.
Defence lawyers pleaded leniency, saying not one of the three men ever intended for Mr Arbery to be killed.
In November, a jury found Gregory McMichael, 66, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbour Bryan, 52, guilty of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony.
Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski had argued the two McMichaels should die in prison and only Bryan should be able to seek parole, pointing to what she called “a demonstrated pattern of vigilantism” by the McMichaels.
Jasmine Arbery addressed the court in a quavering voice to offer a poetic celebration of her brother’s blackness, which she said was mistaken for something frightening by his murderers.
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She said: “He had dark skin that glistened in the sunlight like gold.
“He had curly hair. He would often like to twist it. He had a broad nose and the colour of his eyes was filled with melanin.
“These are the qualities that made these men assume Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal.
“To me, those qualities reflected a young man full of life and energy who looked like me and the people I love.”
The defence lawyers have said they will appeal the convictions. Bob Rubin, who represents the younger McMichael, said life without parole should be reserved only for “the worst of the worst.”
Of Travis McMichael, Rubin said: “His goal was not to commit a crime that day or kill somebody that day. His goal was to have a family afternoon.”
None of the three convicted men used their right to address the court at the hearing.
The three also face a federal trial in February on hate-crime charges, accused in an indictment of violating Mr Arbery’s civil rights by attacking him because of his “race and colour.”
Prosecutors said the three men had mistakenly “assumed the worst” about a black man out on a Sunday afternoon jog. The men chased Mr Arbery for about five minutes around the winding streets.
The case hinged on whether the three men, under a now-repealed Georgia law permitting citizen arrests, had a right to confront Mr Arbery on a hunch he was fleeing a crime.
In the end the jury was not swayed by tearful testimony from Travis McMichael, the only defendant to take the stand, that he shot only in self-defence.
Mr Arbery was running through the residential neighbourhood of Satilla Shores on the afternoon of February 23 when the McMichaels decided to grab their guns, jump in a pickup truck and give chase.
Wanda Cooper-Jones, Mr Arbery’s mother, told the court on Friday: “They chose to target my son because they didn’t want him in their community. When they couldn’t sufficiently scare him or intimidate him, they killed him.”
In his sentencing, the judge quoted the mother’s remarks, saying they struck him as “very true.”
Bryan joined the chase in his own pickup truck after it passed his driveway and pulled out his cellphone to record Travis McMichael firing a shotgun at Mr Arbery at close range.
Mr Arbery had nothing on him besides his running clothes and trainers.
The video caused outrage when it emerged months later and it became clear that none of the men involved had yet been arrested after a local prosecutor concluded the killing was justified.
Mr Arbery’s name was added to those invoked in nationwide anti-racism protests in 2020 that erupted after the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both of whom were black.