McMichaels withdraw guilty pleas in federal Arbery case, hate crime trial starts Monday 

Gregory and Travis McMichael reverse course after a judge rejected the terms of their plea agreement.

Gregory McMichael reversed course Thursday after a judge rejected the terms of a plea agreement the 66-year-old retired Georgia police officer and his son reached last week with the Justice Department.

On Friday morning, his son, Travis McMichael, 36, followed suit, making clear he will withdraw his plans to plead guilty as well.

The two will now stand trial, beginning Monday, for federal hate crimes charges alongside their Brunswick, Georgia, neighbor and co-defendant, William “Roddie” Bryan, 50, stemming from the shooting death of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in February 2020. 

Father and son defendants Gregory McMichael (left) and Travis McMichael (right) look on during proceedings in their trial at Glynn County Superior Court in Brunswick, Georgia for the February 2020 fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. (Photos: Octavio Jones-Pool/Getty Images)

Per ABC News, Judge Lisa Godbey Wood rejected the agreement, which would have allowed the McMichaels to serve the first 30 years of their life sentences for the murder of Arbery in federal prison. 

As previously reported, Arbery’s family was “devastated” by the potential deal.

Family attorney S. Lee Merritt tweeted, “Federal prison is a country club when compared to state prison. Federal prisons are less populated, better funded, and generally more accommodating than state prisons. These men hurriedly entered this plea deal that would allow them to transfer out of custody from GA prison.” 

“By admitting they were motivated by hate when they hunted & murdered Ahmaud Arbery these men get to transfer to safer, less crowded & more orderly federal detention facilities,” Merritt added. “In essence, they get to publicly brag about their hatred & then be rewarded by the federal government.” 

Wanda Cooper Jones kept her promise to Ahmaud Arbery to get her son justice,” Merritt noted. “Today the DOJ is attempting to ‘snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We will not allow it. The Arbery family has worked too hard to see these men spend the rest of their lives in state custody.” 

In rejecting the agreement, Judge Wood said it would have locked her into specific terms — including 30 years in federal prison — at sentencing. Wood said that in this case, it would only be appropriate to consider the family’s wishes at sentencing, which the proposed deal wouldn’t allow.

“The length of the sentence is immaterial to the McMichaels. All they care about is they want to serve it in a federal prison,” said Dan AbramsABC News‘ chief legal analyst, who also claimed that federal prisons tend to be nicer, safer and better-funded than state prisons.

“While the judge is claiming that the issue for her was her hands being tied with regard to the length of the sentence, that’s probably not the real issue,” Abrams added. “The real issue was that the family was opposed to it, and the judge was sort of coming up with an explanation for why she would join them in opposing.”

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