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Federal Hate Crime and Attempted Kidnapping Charges Filed Against Men Accused of Murdering Ahmaud Arbery


Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan are seen in jail booking photos.

The three men charged at the state level with allegedly murdering Ahmaud Arbery, 25, had their legal exposure compound on Wednesday, with federal prosecutors indicting them with hate crimes, attempt kidnapping and other offenses.

Father and son defendants Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael, along with their accused accomplice William “Roddie” Bryan, Jr., were first arrested last May in Georgia, one of four states without a hate crime law.

The federal government stepped in to fill in that gap on Wednesday afternoon.

The indictment accuses the three men of interfering with Arbery’s rights “because of Arbery’s race and color.”

On Feb. 23, 2020, Arbery was running on a public street in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, when the McMichaels armed themselves with firearms, got into a truck, and chased him, prosecutors say.

Ahmaud Arbery. Image via Attorney Benjamin Crump

In the attempted kidnapping charge, prosecutors say: “Specifically, the three defendants chased Arbery through the neighborhood, using their trucks-and in the case of the McMichaels, firearms-in an attempt to restrain Arbery, restrict his free movement, corral and detain him against his will, and prevent his escape.”

The federal indictment has five counts. No trial date has been set in the state case.

Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper sued the three men, Glynn County, police and others exactly one year after he was shot and killed in a federal complaint narrating her son’s death.

“An avid runner, Ahmaud frequently jogged around his neighborhood and surroundings areas in Brunswick, Georgia, including Satilla Shores,” Cooper’s attorneys wrote in their complaint, before describing what made that day different. “That day three armed white men, Defendants Gregory McMichael, Travis McMicheael, and William Bryan — entrusted by local law enforcement to respond to recent trespasses in the area, and armed with a Police-Department-issued revolver and a 12-gauge shotgun — hunted Ahmaud down in their trucks. Based on a ‘gut feeling’ that Ahmaud was responsible for prior thefts in the neighborhood, these Defendants shot Ahmaud three times at close range with their shotgun and killed him. As Ahmaud lay bleeding out on the pavement, Defendant Travis McMichael stood above him and said, ‘fucking N*****.’”

The original lawsuit uses the N-word without redaction.

It also accused Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson of taking part in a “cover up” because she allegedly knew Gregory McMichael for years when he was her investigator.

According to the lawsuit, Johnson recused herself before handing the case to George Barnhill in a neighboring county, but Barnhill also did not disclose that he also “had a personal connection with Gregory McMichael.”

An attorney for Cooper did not immediately respond to an email about the federal charges.

Neither did attorneys for the McMichaels.

This is a developing story.

[images via mugshots]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."