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Racists Get Life for Murdering Black Ahmaud Arbery

FILE - Travis McMichael looks on during the sentencing phase of his state criminal trial at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia, on 1.7.2022 for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

A Georgia man and his father convicted of federal hate crimes for the murder of a Black man who was shot dead while jogging were sentenced to life in prison on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood sentenced Travis McMichael, 36, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, to life in prison on separate hate crimes charges and denied their requests that they be allowed to serve out their sentences in a federal prison instead of a state facility.

"You acted because of the color of Mr. Arbery's skin," the judge told Travis McMichael, who looked ashen as the sentence was pronounced.

McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, 66, and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan, 52, were found guilty of violating Arbery's civil rights by attacking him because of his race and of attempted kidnapping.

A third man who was involved in the chase, William Bryan, who had a less direct role in the murder and cooperated with investigators, was given life with the possibility of parole on the state charges.

He received a sentence of 35 years in prison on the federal charges.

Arbery's case is one in a series of killings of Black people in recent years that have drawn attention to the issue of racism in the U.S. criminal justice system and law enforcement. It also highlighted the broader issue of U.S. gun violence.

The slain man's father, Marcus Arbery, told the court during the hearing: "These three devils have broken my heart into pieces that cannot be found or repaired." Referring to Travis McMichael, he added: "You hate Black people."

McMichael, who declined his right to testify at the hearing, had asked through his lawyer to be transferred out of the state prison system into a federal prison he perceived to be safer. Wood said the rules required that McMichael return to the state prison system where he is already serving a life sentence.

His lawyer, Amy Lee Copeland, said a Georgia state prison was too dangerous for him and that he had received death threats.

"This case involves at least in part concerns of vigilante justice," she told the court. "I realize the rich irony, judge, in expressing my concern that my client will face vigilante justice himself."

Federal prosecutors argued any such transfer would amount to special treatment for which there is no legal basis.

The three men were convicted last November in state court of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal intent to commit a felony, with a jury rejecting self-defense claims. They have appealed their state convictions.

Arbery had gone jogging through the leafy Satilla Shores neighborhood, near Brunswick, on a February 2020 afternoon when the McMichaels decided to grab their guns, jump in a pickup truck and give chase. Their neighbor Bryan joined the chase in his own pickup truck and pulled out his cellphone to record Travis McMichael firing a shotgun at Arbery at close range. Arbery had nothing on him besides his running clothes and sneakers.

The video emerged months later, prompting anti-racism protests in a number of cities because the McMichaels and Bryan had not been arrested after a local prosecutor concluded the killing was justified.

The McMichaels have said they believed that Arbery appeared suspicious, speaking of a series of neighborhood break-ins. No evidence ever emerged connecting Arbery to any Satilla Shore thefts.

In the hate crimes trial, the McMichaels were also convicted of a federal firearms charge.