Racist messages and despicable online messages highlighted in hate crime trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers
(BRUNSWICK, Ga.) — During his state trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Travis McMichael testified that he was not a racist. But prosecutors in his federal hate crimes case presented the jury with numerous statements, text messages and social media posts to allege racism was the underlying motive for which he, his father and their neighbor prosecuted and killed the 25-year-old black man. .
FBI analyst Amy Vaughn testified Wednesday that she found a digital onslaught of messages, mostly from Travis McMichael, in which he allegedly regularly used racial slurs to describe black people and advocated violence against them.
In one instance, Vaughn testified that McMichael, 36, posted on social media about his reaction to a news report about a confrontation between two white people and two black people, allegedly saying black people should be role models.
“‘They’d scrape brain material if this happened to my wife or daughter,'” Vaughn read aloud from McMichael’s alleged post in U.S. District Court in Brunswick, Georgia.
McMichael, her 64-year-old father, Gregory McMichael, a former Georgia police officer; and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, have each been charged with one count of violating Arbery’s civil rights and attempted kidnapping. The McMichaels are also charged with using, carrying and brandishing a firearm in connection with a violent crime and Travis McMichael faces an additional count of use of a firearm in connection with a violent crime.
If found guilty, the men could be sentenced to life in prison. All three are already serving life sentences, the McMichaels without the possibility of parole, after a state jury found them guilty last year of murdering Arbery.
Derek Thomas, childhood friend of Travis McMichael, testified on Wednesday that he was shocked by a violent and racist response Travis McMichael allegedly gave to what he said was supposed to be a funny video of a man black guy playing a prank on his white friend.
Thomas said he was so disturbed by Travis McMichael’s text response that he called him to confront him about it. When asked to read Travis McMichael’s text in court, Thomas refused and instead stated the racial slur he used to describe black people.
Vaughn said his investigation led to the discovery of racist online posts by Bryan and bigoted comments that Gregory McMichael used to describe black people.
Although the FBI was unable to access Gregory McMichael’s phone due to its encryption, Vaughn testified that investigators found messages he had posted on Facebook that she read in court, including one in which he reportedly wrote: “The gun in the hand is worth more than all the police on the phone.”
Vaughn said the FBI also uncovered numerous online posts from Bryan in which he allegedly expressed resentment over a relationship his daughter had developed with a black man. In a message Vaughn read to the court, Bryan reportedly wrote, “That’s the one thing I said I would never accept” and added, “If she gives a damn about herself, why should we?”
Arbery had been out for a jog on Sunday afternoon Feb. 23, 2020, in the Satilla shores neighborhood near Brunswick, when the McMichaels assumed he was robbing a house under construction in their neighborhood, armed themselves and pulled him chased in their van. Bryan joined the five-minute chase, blocking Arbery’s path with his truck. He recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery with a shotgun during a struggle.
While the McMichaels claimed they sued Arbery not because he was black but because he broke into their neighbor’s house, prosecutors showed the jury Wednesday videos of Travis McMichael breaking in during of a hunting trip. In one of the videos, Travis McMichael is seen smiling while standing next to ‘No Trespassing’ signs.
Prosecutors also showed the jury an online post in which Gregory McMichael allegedly wrote, “There’s private property and then there’s private property, you know?”
In her opening statement to the highly publicized trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bobbi Bernstein told the jury she would also present evidence that Bryan told investigators that after Travis McMichael shot Arbery he allegedly heard shouting a racial epithet at the victim as he lay dying. sidewalk.
Bernstein told the panel that while it’s not illegal to use racial slurs, “those slurs can give you evidence as to why a defendant did what they did.”
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