Three Georgia men have pleaded not guilty to federal hate crimes charges and attempted kidnapping charges in the 2020 killing of Ahmaud Arbery on Tuesday, CNN reports.
Travis McMichael, 35, his father Gregory McMichael, 65, and William “Roddie” Bryan, 51, were already charged with murder at the state level, when a grand jury in the Southern District of Georgia indicted the white men on the hate crime charges just last week.
On Tuesday, they plead not guilty as they appeared in person before the federal judge and in front of Arbery’s family, who were in attendance. All three men were wearing orange jumpsuits, escorted by U.S. marshalls and represented by court-appointed attorneys, according to CNN.
Arbery was shot while jogging through a Brunswick neighborhood in February 2020, a killing that was recorded on camera leading to national outcry. All three men were charged with one count of interference with rights and one count of attempted kidnapping in the federal case. The McMichael’s were charged with one count of using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence while Travis, who fatally shot the jogger, was charged with discharging a firearm.
The hearing came just a day after Georgia repealed a Civil War-era law permitting citizen’s arrests.
“Ahmaud was the victim of a vigilante-style violence that has no place in our country or in our state,” said Gov. Brian Kemp, as he signed HB479. “… Today we are replacing a Civil War-era law, ripe for abuse, with language that balances the sacred right to self-defense of a person and property with our shared responsibility to root out injustice and set our state on a better path forward.”
Attorney Lee Merritt said Ahmaud’s family is still “focusing on criminal accountability and seeing this case to a prosecution of appropriate sentencing.”