Suspects in Arbery case plead ‘not guilty’ to federal hate crime charges

Greg McMichael (left), Travis McMichael (center) and William "Roddie" Bryan (right) have been...
Greg McMichael (left), Travis McMichael (center) and William "Roddie" Bryan (right) have been charged in the slaying of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery was killed while running in a Georgia neighborhood in February.(Glynn County Sheriff's Office)
Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 4:06 PM EDT
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BRUNSWICK, Ga. (WTOC) - Three Georgia men made their first court appearance in Brunswick on Tuesday since being indicted on federal hate crime charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan all plead not guilty to federal charges. All three men have been indicted by a federal grand jury on hate crimes and attempted kidnapping charges.

Federal prosecutors say Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan targeted the 25-year-old Arbery because he was Black. The defendants chased and shot Arbery as he ran through a Brunswick neighborhood in February 2020.

Defense attorneys say the men committed no crimes. They say the McMichaels thought Arbery was a burglar, and that Travis McMichael shot him in self-defense.

Travis McMichael was ushered into the courtroom by U.S Marshals first, followed by his father Gregory McMichael, and then William “Roddie” Bryan.

The three men sat with their court-appointed counsel, listening to the federal hate crime and kidnapping charges they face before entering “not guilty” pleas to the U.S. Magistrate judge.

The McMichaels face additional weapons charges, alleging the use of firearms during the course of a crime of violence against Arbery. Count one alleges the McMichaels used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race. Count two alleges Bryan used his truck to join in the chase and cut off Arbery’s route.

Those two counts alone carry a punishment of up to life in prison if convicted.

Listening in on each charge, and seeing the men accused with their loved one’s death for the first time were some of Arbery’s family, including his father and aunt. She spoke with us about the emotions inside the courtroom after today’s arraignment.

“Emotions were everywhere. There was a moment where I wanted to break down, but I remained strong. It’s hard being in the room with people that you know that’s taken your loved one from you,” Arbery’s aunt, Thea Brooks said.

Because of the massive amount of evidence the prosecution will be handing over to the defense to review, which includes social media materials, the GBI case file and interviews conducted by the FBI, the defense will have up to 90 days to file pre-trial motions instead of the usual 10 days.

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