U.S. federal prosecutors have reached plea agreements with two of the three white men facing federal hate-crimes charges for the 2020 murder of Black man Ahmaud Arbery, according to court filings.
The three men - Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan - were convicted last November in a Brunswick, Georgia state court of murdering the 25-year-old Arbery. The McMichaels were sentenced to life in prison without parole by a state judge on Jan. 7, while it was ruled that Bryan could seek parole after 30 years in prison.
The accused now faced a federal trial next month on hate-crime charges, accused of violating Arbery's civil rights by attacking him because of his "race and color." The three defendants have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
On Sunday, lawyers for the U.S. government filed notices asking a district judge to accept pleas for the McMichaels. No details were given but the filings said the deal would "dispose" of the pending charges against the McMichaels if accepted.
The trial of the McMichaels would not be held if the judge agrees to the pleas. The filings did not specify a deal for Bryan, who would stand trial on Feb. 7 unless a deal is reached.
According to civil rights activists, a federal trial would have been a key moment in the country's reckoning with racial injustice. Arbery's murder was another example of deadly violence being used against a Black man, they say.
In an interview with the New York Times, Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones said she would try to persuade the judge to reject the agreements in a hearing Monday morning.
"They (prosecutors) went behind my back. I’m totally, totally upset. My anxiety is over the roof."
Neither the U.S. Justice Department nor the attorneys for the defendants responded to requests for comment.
Arbery's killing on Feb. 23, 2020, sparked outrage across the United States.
Arbery was jogging through the leafy Satilla Shores neighborhood in the afternoon when the McMichaels decided to grab their guns, jump in a pickup truck and give chase.
Bryan joined the chase in his own pickup truck after it passed his driveway, 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.
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