A federal judge has denied the plea deal of Travis and Greg McMichael, two of three men who are being charged with federal hate crimes charges after chasing down and shooting Ahmaud Arbery.
The men have already been found guilty of murder, but the federal government wanted to add a hate crime to the sentencing.
“It is my decision to reject the plea agreement,” U.S. District Judge Lisa Wood said on Monday. “In this case it is appropriate to hear at sentencing from all concerned, including the victim’s family, before deciding on what punishment best promotes all of the factors set forth in our federal sentencing statute.”
Brunswick, Ga. – On Sunday, prosecutors filed notices that they have reached a plea deal with the son and father convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.
The plea agreements were submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District in Georgia for Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael. The third convicted murderer in the case, neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, was not mentioned.
Gregory and Travis McMichael, along with Bryan were convicted of Arbery’s murder in a state court in November 2021. All three men were sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 7 after a trial last fall. Neither Gregory nor Travis McMichael is eligible for parole. Bryan must serve 30 years before he’d be considered for release.
Lee Merritt, the attorney representing Arbery’s family, called the agreements a “back room deal” and a “betrayal to the Arbery family.” The specific details of the agreements have not yet been made public, however, Merritt said the pleas would allow the McMichaels to serve the first 30 years of their sentences in federal prison, avoiding harsher conditions in Georgia prisons.
“Federal prison is a country club when compared to state prison,” Merritt tweeted Monday. “Federal prisons are less populated, better funded and generally more accommodating than state prisons.”
Arbery’s parents, Wanda Cooper and Marcus Arbery, released a statement Sunday night addressing the plea agreements. They said they are “vehemently against this deal” because they believe it would allow the McMichaels to serve time for both cases in a “preferred” federal prison.
“This proposed plea is a huge accommodation to the men who hunted down and murdered Ahmaud Arbery,” the pair said in the overnight statement, made to WTLV in Jacksonville, Florida.
The agreements will still require the approval of U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood before being granted.
All three men convicted of murdering Arbery still face federal charges on civil rights violations. The federal trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 7.
A hearing is scheduled to be held on Monday at 10 a.m. to address any remaining pretrial issues ahead of jury selection for the federal trail. Arbery’s mother said federal prosecutors ignored her wishes in offering the McMichael’s any kind of plea deal and said she plans to oppose the agreements during pretrial hearing.
Prosecutors did not immediately respond to questions about the agreement and the Arbery family’s criticism.