By David M. Greenwald
Georgia – On Wednesday, the US Department of Justice announced that three Georgia men were indicted and charged with hate crimes and the attempted kidnapping of Ahmaud Arbery. The indictment also charges two of the men with separate counts of using firearms during that crime of violence.
The decision by federal prosecutors comes roughly 10 months after state officials charged the three men with four counts of felony murder and 14 months after 25-year-old Arbery was killed while jogging, in a case that captured national attention when it was caught on video and when state officials were slow to arrest and charge the involved men.
In the federal case, Travis McMichael (35), his 65-year-old father Gregory McMichael, and 51-year-old William Bryan were each charged with one count of interference with rights and with one count of attempted kidnapping. Travis and Gregory McMichael were also charged with one count each of using, carrying, and brandishing—and in Travis’s case, discharging—a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence according to a release by the DOJ on Wednesday.
Counts 1 and 2 of the indictment allege “that the defendants used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race.”
In Count 1, the DOJ notes that, while Arbery was running “on a public street in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, Travis and Gregory McMichael armed themselves with firearms, got into a truck, and chased Arbery through the public streets of the neighborhood while yelling at him, using their truck to cut off his route, and threatening him with firearms.”
Further, they allege that the offense resulted in Arbery’s death.
Bryan then joined the chase and used his truck to cut off Arbery’s route.
In addition to the hate crime charges, the complaint “alleges that all three defendants attempted to unlawfully seize and confine Arbery by chasing after him in their trucks in an attempt to restrain him, restrict his free movement, corral and detain him against his will, and prevent his escape.”
They also allege that, during the course of the crime of violence, Travis “used, carried, brandished, and discharged a Remington shotgun, and Gregory used, carried, and brandished a .357 Magnum revolver.”
All three defendants have also been charged in a separate state proceeding with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit a felony. No trial date has been set for the state case.
This case was investigated by both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tara Lyons of the Southern District of Georgia, and Deputy Chief Bobbi Bernstein and Special Litigation Counsel Christopher J. Perras of the Civil Rights Division.
The case drew national attention for the racial component and brazenness of the crime, and also for the fact that it took nearly three months after the killing for state officials to arrest the involved men.
One of the issues at that time was that a previous prosecutor assigned to the case, George Barnhill, had concluded that there was not sufficient probable cause to arrest them, arguing that the defendants were acting under the state’s citizen arrest premise, in that they believed they were detaining a suspected burglar.
However, video seemed to show some of the defendants using racial slurs as well as communicating over various mediums using those slurs.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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