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3 men found guilty in Ahmaud Arbery's murder file appeals of hate crime convictions

This combination photo shows Travis McMichael (from left), William Bryan and Gregory McMichael during their trial at at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. The three men have filed appeals of their federal hate crime convictions.
AP
This combination photo shows Travis McMichael (from left), William Bryan and Gregory McMichael during their trial at at the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. The three men have filed appeals of their federal hate crime convictions.

The three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery have filed appeals of their federal hate crime convictions.

In court documents obtained by NPR, the three men — Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan — argue that race did not play a role in their decisions to chase and shoot the 25-year-old Black man in February 2020.

"Every crime committed against an African American by a man who has used racist language in the past is not a hate crime," said defense attorney Pete Theodocion in an appellate brief written on behalf of William Bryan.

In the 37-page appeal filed on March 3, attorneys representing Bryan and Gregory McMichael argue the two men's hate crime convictions should be overturned given the evidence showed both men had pursued Arbery thinking he was a criminal, not solely because of his race.

"The fact that Mr. Arbery was Black was merely a characteristic shared with the person seen on the security footage, a fact of no greater import to Gregory McMichael's calculus than Mr. Arbery's biological sex, the shorts he was wearing, his hairstyle, or his tattoos," said attorney A.J. Balbo, who is representing Gregory McMichael.

"Mr. Arbery's race was only relevant because it matched the race of the man on the home security footage," he added.

Arbery was shot and killed on Feb. 23, 2020, in Brunswick, Ga., after Travis and Gregory McMichael saw Arbery jogging in their neighborhood. Both men chased after him while Bryan filmed the encounter.

Last August, a federal judge sentenced Travis McMichael, the shooter, to life in prison plus 10 years. His father, Gregory, was sentenced to life in prison plus seven years. Bryan was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

A federal jury convicted the McMichaels and Bryan in February 2022 of violating Arbery's civil rights. The jury concluded the three men targeted him because of his race.

All three men were also found guilty of attempted kidnapping, while the McMichaels were convicted of using guns in the commission of a violent crime.

Government officials are expected to file their reply brief to the appeals within the next 30 days.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.