3 Men Convicted in Ahmaud Arbery's Death Get Life Sentences, William Bryan Parole Eligible

The three men convicted in November for the February 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced to life in prison Friday, and Greg and Travis McMichael were denied the chance for parole.

However, William "Roddie" Bryan, their neighbor who recorded the cell phone video of the attempted citizen's arrest that turned into a murder, was given a life sentence includes a chance for parole after he serves a minimum of 30 years in prison.

The three men were convicted in November after they saw Arbery running in their Georgia neighborhood, grabbed their guns and got in two trucks and chased him.

The killing and trial garnered national attention and sparked protests throughout 2020, as the U.S. experienced a larger reckoning on race and police brutality after the killings of Arbery and George Floyd.

The men were convicted on charges of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and attempted false imprisonment along with murder.

During Friday's sentencing hearing, Arbery's family asked Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley to show no leniency toward the three men, emphasizing the loss they suffered in Arbery, who they said was killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Next month, the three men face a second trial over federal hate crime charges, alleging they violated Arbery's civil rights and specifically targeted him because he was a Black man.

Ahmaud Arbery, Murder Trial, Georgia, Life Sentence
This photo combo shows, from left, Travis McMichael, William "Roddie" Bryan, and Gregory McMichael during their trial at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Georgia. The men were sentenced to life in prison Friday for their November convictions for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in February 2020. AP Pool File

Walmsley said Arbery left his home for a jog and ended up running for his life for five minutes as the men chased him in pickup trucks until they finally cornered him.

"Ahmaud Arbery was hunted down and shot, and he was killed because individuals here in the courtroom took the law into their own hands," the judge said.

Before sentencing, Walmsley paused for a minute of silence to help give the scope of what those five minutes must have been like for Arbery.

"When I thought about this, I thought from a lot of different angles. I kept coming back to the terror that must have been in the mind of the young man running through Satilla Shores," he said, mentioning the neighborhood outside the port city of Brunswick where Arbery was killed.

Murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison under Georgia law unless prosecutors seek the death penalty, which they opted against for Arbery's killing. For Walmsley, the main decision was whether to grant Greg and Travis McMichael, and Bryan an eventual chance to earn parole.

During the sentencing hearing, Arbery's sister recalled her brother's humor, describing him as a positive thinker with a big personality. She told the judge her brother had dark skin "that glistened in the sunlight," thick, curly hair and an athletic build, factors that made him a target to the men who pursued him.

"These are the qualities that made these men assume that Ahmaud was a dangerous criminal and chase them with guns drawn. To me, those qualities reflect a young man full of life and energy who looked like me and the people I loved," Jasmine Arbery said.

Arbery's mother asked for the maximum sentence, saying she suffered a personal, intense loss made worse by a trial where the men's defense was that Arbery made bad choices that led to his death.

"This wasn't a case of mistaken identity or mistaken fact. They chose to target my son because they didn't want him in their community. They chose to treat him differently than other people who frequently visited their community," Wanda Cooper-Jones said. "And when they couldn't sufficiently scare or intimidate him, they killed him."

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski asked the judge for life without parole for Travis and Greg McMichael and the possibility of parole for Bryan. But she said all deserved that mandatory life sentence for showing "no empathy for the trapped and terrified Ahmaud Arbery."

Jury Finds Three Men Guilty
A woman carries a portrait of Ahmaud Arbery outside the Glynn County Courthouse as the jury deliberates in the trial of the killers of Ahmaud Arbery on November 24, 2021 in Brunswick, Georgia. Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan were found guilty in the February, 2020 fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images) Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Contending the McMichaels still believed they didn't do anything wrong, Dunikoski disclosed Friday that Greg McMichael gave Bryan's cellphone video of the shooting to an attorney, who leaked it.

"He believed it was going to exonerate him," the prosecutor said.

He argued that Travis McMichael opened fire only after "Mr. Arbery came at him and grabbed the gun." But Rubin also acknowledged his client's decisions to arm himself and chase Arbery were "reckless" and "thoughtless."

"They are not evidence of a soul so blackened as to deserve to spend the rest of his life in prison," Rubin said. "This was not a planned murder. This was a fight over a gun that led to Mr. Arbery's death."

"Greg McMichael did not leave his home that day hoping to kill," Hogue told the judge. "He did not view his son firing that shotgun with anything other than fear and sadness. What this jury found was this was an unintentional act."

"Mr. Bryan isn't the one who brought a gun," Kevin Gough said. "He was unarmed. And I think that reflects his intentions."

The guilty verdicts against the men handed down the day before Thanksgiving prompted a victory celebration outside the Glynn County courthouse for those who saw Arbery's death as part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice.

The killing went largely unnoticed until two months later, when the graphic video was leaked online and touched off a national outcry. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case from local police and soon arrested all three men.

A judge has set jury selection for the hate crime trial to begin on February 7.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

1/7/2022 4:05 PM ET: This story has been updated with additional information.

Ahmaud Arbery, Murder Trial, Georgia, Life Sentence
Ahmaud Arbery's father Marcus Arbery, center, sits in the courtroom with other family members during the sentencing of Greg McMichael, his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan for their murder conviction over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in the Glynn County Courthouse, Friday in Brunswick, Georgia. The three men were all sentenced to life in prison Friday. Stephen B. Morton/Getty Images