Ahmaud Arbery’s killers appeal federal hate crime convictions, deny racist motive
Three white men imprisoned for the murder of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery are appealing their federal hate crime convictions — with two arguing the shooting outside Brunswick, Ga., wasn’t racially motivated.
“Every crime committed against an African American by a man who has used racist language in the past is not a hate crime,” the appellate brief written on behalf of William “Roddie” Bryan read.
Bryan, now 53, joined father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael on Feb. 23, 2020, when they chased Arbery, 25, in their vehicles through the suburban Satilla Shores neighborhood.
After the trio used their cars to block Arbery’s path, Travis McMichael, 36, assaulted him with a shotgun before fatally shooting him.
Bryan recorded the confrontation on his cellphone, and the video later went viral.
All three men were convicted of Arbery’s murder in November 2021.
A few months later, they were found guilty of federal hate crimes.
An appellate brief filed by attorneys for Gregory McMichael, 67, alleges the former investigator pursued Arbery because he recognized him from footage of a possible intruder at a nearby construction site — not because he was black.
“[Race was] of no greater import to Gregory McMichael’s calculus than Mr. Arbery’s biological sex, the shorts he was wearing, his hairstyle, or his tattoos,” the brief argues.
Gregory McMichael’s lawyer, A.J. Bilbao, also asserted his client would not have chased Arbery if he was a black woman.
Meanwhile, Bryan’s lawyer, Pete Theodocion, argues the former mechanic, who did not know the McMichaels, “had every right to assume” Arbery was a criminal once he saw his neighbors pursuing him.
“Arbery never called out for help or gave any signs that he was the victim of an unprovoked attack,” Theodocian asserts.
During the trio’s murder trial, the prosecution presented text messages and social media posts in which all three men used racial slurs.
In one example, Bryan used a racist insult in messages about his frustration that his daughter was dating a black man. The state’s attorneys also referred to a 2018 Facebook comment in which Travis McMichael vowed to “kill” a black man depicted in a prank video.
Theodocion, however, claims Bryan “was not obsessed with African Americans such as [Travis was],” CNN reported.
Travis McMichael’s own appeal does not deny the shooting’s racial motivation, but instead questions whether the state adequately proved Arbery was pursued and killed on public streets.
The US Justice Department has 30 days to file responses to the hate crime appeals. According to The Associated Press, all three men have also filed pending appeals of their murder convictions.
At the time of his death, Arbery, a former high school football star, was saving up to go back to school to become an electrician. He frequently jogged as a form of exercise.
With Post wires