Hate crimes trial date set in Ahmaud Arbery case

A date has been set for the federal trial of three Brunswick suspects charged in the February 2020 shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.

Jury selection will begin in Brunswick on Feb. 7 following Tuesday’s order by U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood.

Earlier this year, a federal grand jury indicted father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, along with a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, on one count each of interference with civil rights and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels are also charged with using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a violent crime.

The three suspects also face state murder charges in Glynn County. That trial is due to begin Oct. 18.

The McMichaels and Bryan pleaded not guilty to the federal charges. Video of the incident, shot by Bryan and released on social media last May, brought national attention to Arbery’s death and the town where it unfolded.

GBI investigators, who took over the case following nearly three months of legal wrangling that led to accusations of a cover-up, allege the McMichaels pursued Arbery in a pickup truck through their Satilla Shores neighborhood. Bryan later joined the pursuit, using his vehicle to try to block Arbery, according to the GBI.

Travis McMichael ended up killing Arbery with three shotgun blasts fired at close range, investigators say.

Attorneys for the defendants say the McMichaels pursued Arbery because they suspected him in a series of neighborhood burglaries. Travis McMichael shot him, the defense maintains, because he feared for his life after the two men fought for control of the gun.

Federal prosecutors allege that the men “used force and threats of force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race.”

Travis McMichael’s attorneys have denied Bryan’s claim that their client uttered a racist slur after shooting Arbery.

A pretrial hearing in the federal case is scheduled for Sept. 9.