By Sarah N. Lynch WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. prosecutors charged three white men in Georgia on Wednesday with federal hate crimes and attempted kidnapping in last year's slaying of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was gunned down as he was out jogging through a suburban neighborhood. The Justice Department said that former police officer Gregory McMichael, 65, his son Travis McMichael, 35, and William "Roddie" Bryan, 51, were each charged with one count of interference with rights and with one count of attempted kidnapping. Travis and Gregory McMichael were also each charged with using firearms ...
Reprinted with permission from Alternet
Three white men linked to the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery were indicted on murder charges Wednesday after allegations of prosecutorial misconduct significantly delayed accountability in the case. Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes, who is the fourth prosecutor assigned to the case, announced online Wednesday that Glynn County's Grand Jury has indicted former Georgia cop Greg McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and the man who filmed parts of the deadly encounter, William Bryan.
Along with the malice murder charge, they face four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. "This is another step forward in seeking justice for Ahmaud," Holmes said.
She added: "Our team from the Cobb Judicial Circuit has been committed to effectively bringing forward the evidence in this case and today was no exception. It has been an effort of many agencies including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice who have worked together to get to this point. We will continue to be intentional in the pursuit of justice for this family and the community at large as the prosecution of this case continues."
BREAKING: Travis and Gregory McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan have been officially INDICTED FOR MURDER of… https://t.co/jUS43JOoib— Ben Crump (@Ben Crump)1593029690.0
Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was unarmed when he was accused of breaking into a South Georgia home, hunted down, and fatally shot Feb. 23, 2020, for doing little more than jogging, his family's attorneys have said. Even though the Glynn County Police Department obtained Bryan's video of the incident the same day, suspects Gregory and Travis McMichael weren't arrested until Thursday, May 7, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said. That was a full 74 days after Arbery's death, which was ruled a homicide.
Two different Georgia district attorney offices are being investigated for "possible prosecutorial misconduct" in the case. District Attorney Tom Durden, who was assigned to take over the case as a special prosecutor, later passed on the role he said was better suited for a prosecutor with more resources. Holmes, the first Black woman to serve as Cobb County's district attorney, announced she would be prosecuting the case in May.
Read the rest of her post announcing the indictment here:
The Cobb DA's Office was able to present this case today to Glynn County's Grand Jury pursuant to the Second Order Extending the Declaration of Statewide Judicial Emergency, signed by Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton on May 11, 2020, which states: "Grand juries that are already impaneled or are recalled from a previous term of court may meet to attend to time-sensitive essential matters, but these grand juries should not be assembled except when necessary and only under circumstances in which social distancing and other public health guidance can be followed."This was reiterated in the Third Order Extending the Declaration of Statewide Judicial Emergency, issued on June 12, 2020. The additional Guidance from the Supreme Court authorizes a district attorney to assemble an existing grand jury if the district attorney determines the matter is essential to the administration of justice, if a delay may substantially harm to public interest, and if the grand jury can be assembled safely.The full document can be found at:https://www.gasupreme.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Further-Guidance-on-Grand-Juries_May-11.pdfThe defendants' arraignment before Judge Timothy R. Walmsley has not yet been scheduled.
The video clip is a mere 36 seconds, but it is shocking, explicit, sickening. And because it has gone viral -- prompting national outrage -- two white men have finally been arrested and charged in the death of a black jogger in southeast Georgia in February.
That hardly means that the family of Ahmaud Arbery will get justice, that his killers will pay for their crime. Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, have been charged with murder and aggravated assault, but they must still be tried and convicted. The outcome is uncertain. The quest for a righteous outcome has staggered this far along only because of the emergence of that appalling few seconds of video.
With its revelations, powerful politicians are saying all the right things. On Thursday, Georgia's Republican governor, a Trump acolyte, told reporters that the video is "absolutely horrific" and "Georgians deserve answers."
U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., said she is "deeply concerned" by the killing. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., who is challenging her for the seat, was more pointed: "What I saw on the video is disturbing and wrong and looks like a criminal act," he tweeted. "It must be thoroughly investigated and I can't imagine why it has taken this long to come to light."
Collins' comments point to the disturbing facts at the heart of the case. Local criminal justice officials have apparently had the video since Arbery's death on Feb. 23. Rarely have prosecutors been handed more explicit evidence of a crime. There is no evidence to suggest Arbery was armed, yet no arrests were made. Instead, one prosecutor managed to contort the video to blame Arbery, offering legal exculpation for a modern-day lynching.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Arbery, 25, was out for a jog in a suburban neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia. He had been a high school football standout, and his mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, said her son liked to run to stay in shape.
But as he jogged through their neighborhood, the McMichaels thought he looked like a criminal. They armed themselves and chased him down in their pickup truck, according to published reports. Arbery was shot dead in the confrontation that ensued. A friend of the McMichaels, William Bryan, followed in his own vehicle and apparently made the video.
Because of a tangle of conflicts of interest -- the elder McMichael was formerly a member of local law enforcement -- two prosecutors recused themselves from the case. But before he removed himself, the second prosecutor, George Barnhill, wrote a letter to the Glynn County Police Department declaring that the McMichaels had done nothing wrong.
Barnhill wrote that the McMichaels were within their rights to pursue a "burglary suspect," and if Arbery reacted after they pulled their weapons on him, the McMichaels were also within their rights to shoot him dead.
Barnhill recused himself, by the way, only after pressure from Arbery's mother. She has told reporters that she searched the internet for information on the McMichaels and discovered that the son, Travis, had worked in the office of a different local prosecutor alongside Barnhill's son. Jones clearly has some insights into the curious ways in which justice is administered in her part of the world.
Despite Barnhill's attempts to vindicate the McMichaels, though, there is no evidence that Arbery had committed a crime. In the video, he is clearly jogging, not fleeing. And it shows him trying to get around the McMichaels' truck, stopped in the middle of the street. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which has taken over jurisdiction of the case, had no trouble seeing evidence of the McMichaels' misdeeds.
Still, there will be many more efforts to absolve the McMichaels, including the ongoing campaign to smear Arbery. Local criminal justice officials have pointed to his conviction for shoplifting in 2018, as Barnhill did in his letter, and to an indictment for bringing a gun to a basketball game when he was in high school.
If there is any lesson in this, it's one that black Americans didn't need: Racism is alive and well, and the lynching of a black man may still be legalized by the criminal "justice" system.
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