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The three men accused of hunting down Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and fatally shooting him pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges Tuesday afternoon.
Greg McMichael, his adult son Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan appeared before US Magistrate Judge Benjamin Cheesbro in a hearing at the Brunswick federal courthouse. The trio is already facing state murder charges in the killing.
The men, charged with violating Arbery’s civil rights and attempted kidnapping, made no statements to the court beyond basic answers to the judge before entering not guilty pleas to all charges.
Last February, the McMichaels saw Arbery, 25, running past their home and suspected he was a burglar who’d been recorded on video inside a nearby home under construction — so they armed themselves and chased him in a pickup truck.
Bryan, the McMichaels’ neighbor, joined the chase and shot cellphone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range three times with a shotgun.
On April 28, the Justice Department charged the McMichaels and Bryan, who are all white, with violating Arbery’s civil rights and for using their trucks and guns to try to detain him.
A federal indictment against the three allege the men illegally used force to “injure, intimidate and interfere with” Arbery “because of [his] race and color.”
If convicted of violating Arbery’s rights, the men face a maximum sentence of life behind bars.
The trio’s defense attorneys insist the men committed no crimes — lawyers for the McMichaels have said Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense as they grappled over a shotgun, adding that he and his dad believed Arbery was a criminal.
Prosecutors say Arbery was simply out for a jog and there’s no evidence he stole anything from the home under construction.
The case has been a symbol amid a modern-day civil rights reckoning after the men went free for more than two months following Arbery’s death.
When video of the killing came to light, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation swiftly took over the case from local cops, and the prosecutors originally involved were later investigated for prosecutorial misconduct.
With Post wires
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