FBI: Accused in Arbury’s murder used repeated racial slurs
FBI: Accused in Arbury’s murder used repeated racial slurs

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) – Two of three white men convicted of murder Ahmaud Arberi repeatedly used racial slurs in text messages and social media posts, including some violent comments the Arbury shooter made about black people, an FBI witness testified Wednesday in their federal hate crime trial.

FBI intelligence analyst Amy Vaughn walked the jury through more than two dozen conversations Travis McMichael and William “Roddy” Bryan had with others, identified only by their initials, in the months and years before the 25-year-old black man was killed. The FBI was unable to access the phone of Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael’s father, because it was encrypted, Vaughn said.

In text and Facebook conversations with friends, Travis McMichael often uses the N-word to describe black people. In a Facebook conversation with a friend, he also shared a video of a young black boy dancing on a TV show to a racist song that included the N-word. He also said that black people “ruin everything” and said more than once that he was glad he wasn’t a black person, using a racial slur.

In other social media posts, Travis McMichael has referenced anti-black violence. In December 2018, he commented on a Facebook video of a black man joking with a white man: “I’d kill that f—-p.”

And in June 2017, he shared a television news story about a violent confrontation between two white women and two black customers upset over cold food at a Georgia restaurant, using a racial slur to comment that he would beat black people “to death if he did that of (name redacted by FBI) ​​or my mother and sister. He added that he would have no more remorse than killing a rabid animal.

The McMichaels armed themselves and used a pickup truck to chase after Arbury as he ran through their Georgia waterfront neighborhood on February 23, 2020. Brian, a neighbor, joined the chase in his own truck and recorded Travis McMichael’s cellphone video. who blasts Arbury with a shotgun. No arrests were made until the video was leaked online two months later.

All three men were convicted of murder in Georgia state court last fall. Their second trial began Monday in U.S. District Court on hate crime charges. Prosecutors say McMichaels and Bryan violated Arberry’s civil rights and targeted him because he is black.

Defense attorneys insist that Arbury’s deadly pursuit was motivated by a serious, if misplaced, suspicion that Arbury had committed crimes.

The hate crime case is being tried by a jury of eight whites, three blacks and one Hispanic.

Evidence presented in court Wednesday showed Brian also used the N-word, but his preferred slur was a derogatory characterization of a black man’s lips. For several years, Brian had been tweeting racist messages on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that mocked the holiday. In messages sent in the days surrounding Arbury’s murder, Brian was upset that his daughter was dating a black man.

Greg McMichael posted a meme on Facebook in 2016 saying that white Irish slaves were treated worse than any race in the US, but that the Irish didn’t ask for handouts.

“I’m really not shocked,” Arberry’s father, Marcus Arberry, told reporters outside the courthouse. Still, he said he didn’t realize “all that hatred was in those three men.”

Defense attorneys had several questions for the FBI analyst and did not dispute the racist posts. They said in their opening statements to the jury Monday that their clients’ racist comments were offensive and indefensible, but did not prove they committed hate crimes.

Travis McMichael’s attorney, Amy Lee Copeland, said some of his texts and posts lack context and “you can’t hear that change of voice and see what’s going on.”

Copeland also asked Derek Thomas, who posted a prank video that drew a heated comment from Travis McMichael, about their longtime friendship. Thomas testified that they had known each other since high school and often went hunting and fishing together. He said he often checked on Travis McMichael’s mother after McMichael’s arrests and convictions.

“Is it fair to say you love the man but hate the words he used?” Copland asked Thomas.

He replied, “Yes ma’am.”

Both McMichaels and Bryan were sentenced to life imprisonment in the case of murder of the state. The men’s racist comments were not introduced as evidence in the murder trial, in which prosecutors downplayed issues of race and focused on proving the three had no justification for chasing and killing Arberry.

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