The three white Georgia men convicted of murdering black jogger Ahmaud Arbery will be sentenced Friday — with their only hope the possibility of parole after 30 years behind bars.
Gregory McMichael, 66, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, already know they will get automatic life sentences after being found guilty in late November of the horrific caught-on-camera 2020 slaying.
Under Georgia law, the trio could have faced the death penalty, but prosecutors already opted against it.
It means the sole option for the killers to avoid spending their lives in prison would be the possibility of parole — but only once they have served 30 years behind bars.
For Travis McMichael, who is 35, “that could make a significant difference,” said Page Pate, an Atlanta criminal defense attorney who isn’t involved in the case.
“For the two older guys, it’s effectively a full life sentence,” Pate said of Greg McMichael, who recently turned 66, and Bryan, who is 52.
Frank Hogue, a lawyer for the elder McMichael, echoed that message.
“Obviously we’re going to argue for life with the possibility of parole … Practically, that doesn’t mean much of a difference for a 65-year-old man,” Hogue conceded.
All three men were also convicted of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. Maximum prison terms for those counts range from five to 20 years.
The three men will be given the option to address Judge Timothy Walmsley in Glynn County Superior Court during the 10 a.m. sentencing.
Arbery’s relatives could also be called to share victim impact statements over the death which played a central role in the racial awakening that led to Black Lives Matter protests and riots throughout 2020.
On her way to court, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told CNN that she didn’t “want to hear anything” from any of her son’s killers.
“There’s nothing that they can tell me today that would make me feel better. I miss Ahmaud more and more each day,” she told the network.
Her attorney, Lee Merritt, told the network that “the appropriate sentence” they expected was “life sentences without the possibility of parole.”
Arbery, a 25-year-old avid jogger, was running through the mostly white residential neighborhood of Satilla Shores on the afternoon of Feb. 23 when the McMichaels decided to grab their guns, jump in a pickup truck and give chase. The younger McMichael would later testify to the jury they had a hunch Arbery might be fleeing a crime.
Bryan joined the chase in his own pickup, 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 caused outrage when it emerged months later and it became clear that none of the men involved had yet been arrested after a local prosecutor concluded the killing was justified.
Former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson was later charged with violating her oath of office and hindering a law enforcement officer.
The McMichaels and Bryan have said they plan to appeal the convictions. They have 30 days after sentencing to file them.
They also face another trial next month on federal hate crime charges, accused in an indictment of violating Arbery’s civil rights by attacking him because of his “race and color.” Arbery’s mother has filed a civil lawsuit.
Before Friday’s sentencing, the trio offered to plead guilty to the federal hate crimes in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in hopes of having their federal sentence take the place of their state life sentence, according to CBS 46.
However, Arbery’s mother asked prosecutors not to accept it, because she wants both sentences to run together, the station’s Hayley Mason said in a tweet.
With Post wires