GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. — The three men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery made their first appearance in a federal courtroom Tuesday.
Gregory and Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges handed down just under two weeks ago.
Channel 2′s Tony Thomas was inside the federal courthouse in Brunswick for the hearing Tuesday afternoon.
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Thomas spoke with the Arbery family after, who said they were left shaken by being in the same courtroom as the suspects but hopeful the case is progressing.
“We know justice is closer … for getting justice for my son,” said Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr.
He told Thomas that he’s been looking forward to this day in court for months, but it didn’t make it any easier.
“It’s a very emotional time for him. Today was very rough. This is actually the first time we have been in the courtroom with the people responsible for killing Ahmaud,” aunt Thea Brooks said.
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Thomas sat in the courtroom for the hearing. He said the Arbery family struggled to control emotions as they listened to Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and Roddie Bryant enter not guilty pleas to federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges.
Prosecutors say the three men chased down, and Travis McMichael killed Arbery in February 2020 solely because he was Black.
The three men say race had nothing to do with it, they were just trying to catch a suspected burglar and didn’t intend to kill him.
“I appreciate the judge, although it was waived by the defendants, took the time to walk through the charges and the facts to show how quick and how closely the facts of this case mirror actual hate crimes charges, which are difficult to reach in a federal setting,’ attorney Lee Merritt said.
The men also face state murder charges. The Arbery family believes the federal charges are a good backup in case the murder case falls apart.
“When the feds stepped in, it took a big relief off our family,” Marcus Arbery said.
Defense attorneys for the three men left the courthouse without comment.
Motions in the state murder case will be considered by a local judge in Brunswick on Wednesday.
That case is set to go to trial in October. The federal case likely soon after that.