Georgia man who shot black jogger handed life sentence for hate crime

A white man who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery after chasing the 25-year-old black man in a Georgia neighbourhood has been sentenced to life in prison for a federal hate crime. Travis McMichael was sentenced by US District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in the port city of Brunswick. His punishment is largely symbolic, as he had been sentenced earlier this year to life without parole by a Georgia state court for murder.

Judge Wood said McMichael had received a "fair trial", adding: "And it's not lost on the court that it was the kind of trial that Ahmaud Arbery did not receive before he was shot and killed." McMichael was one of three defendants convicted in February of federal hate crime charges. His father, Greg McMichael, and neighbour William "Roddie" Bryan have sentencing hearings scheduled later.

Ahmaud Arbery Hate CrimesA mural of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick (Sarah Blake Morgan/AP)

The McMichaels armed themselves with guns and used a pick-up truck to chase Mr Arbery after he ran past their home on February 23 2020.

Bryan joined the pursuit in his own truck and recorded phone video of McMichael blasting Mr Arbery with a shotgun. The McMichaels told police they suspected their victim was a burglar. Investigators determined he was unarmed and had committed no crimes.

Mr Arbery's killing on February 23 2020 became part of a larger national reckoning over racial injustice and killings of unarmed black people including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. Those two cases also resulted in the Justice Department bringing federal charges. Greg McMichael and Bryan also face possible life sentences after a jury convicted them in February of federal hate crimes, concluding that they violated Mr Arbery's civil rights and targeted him because of his race.

All three men were also found guilty of attempted kidnapping, and the McMichaels face additional penalties for using firearms to commit a violent crime. A state Superior Court judge imposed life sentences for all three men in January for murder, with both McMichaels denied any chance of parole. All three defendants have remained jailed in Glynn County, in the custody of US marshals, while awaiting sentencing after their federal convictions in January.

Because they were first charged and convicted of murder in a state court, protocol would have them turned them over to the Georgia Department of Corrections to serve their life terms in a state prison. In court filings last week, Travis and Greg McMichael asked the judge to divert them to a federal prison, saying they would not be safe in a Georgia prison system which is the subject of a US Justice Department investigation focused on violence between inmates. Mr Arbery's family has insisted the McMichaels and Bryan should serve their sentences in a state prison, arguing a federal penitentiary would not be as tough.

His parents objected forcefully before the federal trial when both McMichaels sought a plea deal that would have included a request to transfer them to federal prison.

The judge ended up rejecting the plea agreement.