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Ahmaud Arbery’s family rejects plea deal for three murderers ahead of sentencing

Ahmaud Arbery’s family rejects plea deal for three murderers ahead of sentencing
Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan are facing a separate federal hate crimes trial

The family of Ahmaud Arbery has rejected an 11th-hour plea deal for the three men who murdered the Black man in Georgia in February 2020 which would have sentenced them to 30 years in federal prison on hate crimes charges.

Lee Merritt, the attorney for Mr Arbery’s family, said his mother Wanda Cooper-Jones had been approached by the Department of Justice about the plea deal earlier this week.

The deal would have sentenced the three murderers – Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. – to 30 years in federal prison.

“She rejected that offer because we believe that today the state will move forward with life sentences without the possibility of parole, and we think that’s the appropriate sentence,” Mr Merritt told CNN.

The offer came ahead of Friday’s sentencing for the three men on state charges, after they were each found guilty of murder back in November.

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The killers face a separate federal trial, set to begin in February, on hate crime charges which accuse the three men of using force to intimidate and interfere with Mr Arbery’s rights because of his race.

They face life in prison on these federal charges.

Outside the courthouse, Ms Cooper-Jones said she believes Travis McMichael – who pulled the trigger and shot her son twice at close range – should spend the remainder of his life in prison.

“Ahmaud didn’t get a chance to live. So with that being said, Travis should not get a chance to live as a free man. Travis should go to prison for life without parole and … he should remain in prison forever,” she said.

All three men will be handed mandatory minimum sentences of life in prison for their state murder charges.

However, the judge will decide whether they will be granted life with or without the possibility of parole.

Under Georgia law, even with the possibility of parole, they will not be eligible for release for at least 30 years.

Murder is also punishable by the death penalty in Georgia, but prosecutors chose not to seek the death penalty in this case.

Each count of aggravated assault also carries a sentence of between one and 20 years in prison.

False imprisonment is punishable by one to 10 years in prison and criminal attempt to commit a felony by one to five years in prison.

Prosecutors have already said they intend to seek life without parole for all three men.

The three men chased Mr Arbery, who was unarmed, through the Satilla Shores neighbourhood in their pickup trucks before shooting him dead in the road back on 23 February 2020.

Footage of the attack, filmed by Mr Bryan on his smartphone, sent shockwaves around the world and reignited calls for racial justice following the murder of George Floyd.

All three men were charged with nine counts, including 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.

Travis McMichael was convicted of all nine charges, Gregory McMichael of eight charges, excluding the count of malice murder, and Bryan of six charges – three counts of felony murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of false imprisonment and one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.