U.S. Federal Judge Rejects Hate Crime Plea Deal With Man Who Killed Ahmaud Arbery

A federal judge in Georgia rejected on Jan. 31 a plea deal reached by prosecutors and at least one of the men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery after the victim’s family objected.

United States District Judge Lisa Wood said she did not have enough information to approve the plea deal that could have enabled Travis McMichael to spend the first 30 years of his life sentence in federal prison instead of a state prison, where conditions are tougher.

Wood also said that she did not know if 30 years in federal prison was an appropriate sentence.

“It could be more. It could be less. It could be that. But given the unique circumstances of this case and my desire to hear from all concerned regarding the sentencing before I pronounce sentence, I am not comfortable accepting the terms of the plea agreement,” Wood said.

The proposed plea deal was for both Travis and his father Greg McMichael, but Wood has yet to make a ruling on Greg.

The third convicted murderer in the case, McMichael’s neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, was not mentioned in the plea deal.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said that the Justice Department respected the judge’s decision to not accept the deal.

Clarke also said in a statement that federal prosecutors “entered the plea agreement only after the victims’ attorneys informed me that the family was not opposed to it.”

Earlier, Arbery’s family expressed anger at the plea deal.

“Granting these men their preferred conditions of confinement… gives them one last chance to spit in my face after murdering my son,” Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones told the court.

The next hearing will be on Feb. 4 to decide whether the McMichaels will move ahead with pleading guilty.

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