“My son was shot not once, not twice, but three times,” Arberry’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said before Travis McMichael’s sentencing. He and other members of Arberry’s family asked the judge to give Travis McMichael the maximum sentence under federal guidelines.
Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael were sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison on attempted kidnapping charges, to be served concurrently with their state sentences, U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood ruled Monday.
Travis McMichael received an additional 10 years to be served consecutively on the weapons charge, while Gregory McMichael received an additional seven years on the weapons charge, also to be served consecutively. The judge ruled that neither of the McMichaels had the money to pay the fines.
Both McMichaels’ sentences were preceded by emotional testimony from Arberry’s family, which told the court about how his killing affected them and changed their family.
They both condemned their actions, and Cooper-Jones testified to his confusion when he learned that Gregory McMichael was with Travis, who killed Arberry. At first, she questioned whether it could be true.
“I struggled to realize that a father would actually come to take a life with his son,” he said. “I don’t want to believe it because as a mother, I can never go with my son to commit any kind of crime.”
Before Gregory McMichael was sentenced, he acknowledged Arberry’s family in court, saying, “The loss you’ve gone through is indescribable. There are no words for it.”
“I’m sure my words will sound small to you, but I just wanted to assure you that I didn’t want any of this to happen. There was no malice in my heart or my son’s heart that day,” she said.
Gregory McMichael apologized to his wife and son, saying “I should never have put him through that.”
“Finally, I pray that God’s peace will come upon the Arberry family and this community,” Gregory McMichael said.
Speaking to reporters Monday afternoon, Cooper-Jones said she accepted Gregory McMichael’s apology.
“Being the person that I am, I think he realizes now that he made some terrible decisions in February (2020),” he said. “Unfortunately, his apology did not bring my son back, but I accept the apology.”
Judge denies McMichaels’ requests for federal custody
Travis McMichael’s attorney, Amy Lee Copeland, argued Monday that her client should remain in federal custody and that the prison sentence be served by the federal Bureau of Prisons, not the Georgia Department of Prisons.
Travis McMichael fears for his life in a state prison after Copeland told the court his client had received “hundreds” of threats. Forcing him to remain in a Georgia state prison would essentially amount to a “backdoor death sentence,” which could make McMichael vulnerable to “vigilante justice,” he argued, acknowledging the “profound irony.”
Gregory McMichael’s attorney made a similar request, but argued that the 66-year-old’s health warranted federal custody.
Prosecutors opposed both requests. In cases where a defendant faces charges in separate jurisdictions, they argued, the first to issue the sentence gets priority.
The judge apparently agreed and denied the requests, telling Travis McMichael he had “no authority or desire” to break the rules.
Federal prosecutors focused on how each defendant spoke about black people in public and in private, using inflammatory, derogatory and racist language.
Defense attorneys argued that McMichaels followed Arbury through neighborhood streets in a pickup truck and stopped him for police, believing he matched the description of someone captured on footage recorded at a home under construction. Prosecutors acknowledged Arberry had broken into the home in the past, but he never took anything.
Travis McMichael shot Arberry in self-defense, and they wrestled with McMichael’s gun. Brian follows in his own truck after seeing McMichaels following Arbury as he drives off. Brian recorded the shooting on video.
Two prosecutors initially advised Glynn County police not to make arrests, and the defendants were not arrested for more than two months — and only after video of Brian’s killing emerged, sparking nationwide protests.
CNN’s Jason Hanna and Travis Caldwell contributed to this report.
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