Georgia

Will the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery plead guilty to federal charges? Here’s what’s at stake

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — The federal hate crimes trial will soon begin in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

Jury selection is supposed to start next week, but two of the three men convicted in Arbery’s death could plead guilty on Friday.

It’s unclear what Greg and Travis McMichael will do — plead guilty or roll the dice at a hate crimes trial set for Monday.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, was very adamant before the judge that she’s opposed to any plea deal, especially one that allows her son’s killers to serve time in federal prison instead of Georgia lockups.

“It’s disrespectful. I fought so hard to get these guys in state prison,” Cooper-Jones told Channel 2′s Tony Thomas.

“He was killed racially, and we want 100% justice, not half justice,” Marcus Arbery Sr. said.

The McMichaels, along with Roddy Bryan, are serving life sentences for killing Arbery during a 2020 chase and shooting.

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The McMichaels wanted to plead guilty to the federal hate crimes charges in exchange for serving the first 20-plus years in federal prisons.

Bryan has no deal and will go to trial Monday.

“This is almost a freebie for them to have the trial, because maybe there is going to be an issue that will cause this case to be reversed,” legal analyst Esther Panitch said.

Panitch said the judge in this case is in a hard spot trying to balance the deals reached between prosecutors and defendants while respecting the family.

“Usually they listen very intently, but not until sentencing. It’s unusual at this part of the proceeding. Especially in federal court where the judges are appointed for life,” Panitch said.

“I’d like to think the judge considered how much sweat equity the family put in on this and they deserved to be heard on this point,” said Arbery family attorney Lee Merritt.

If the McMichaels still enter guilty pleas Friday morning, the punishment they receive will be entirely up to the judge.

It could range from a few years to another set of life sentences.

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