Judge Rejects Plea Deal for Travis McMichael

Victim Ahmaud Arbery's mother opposed father-and-son deal ahead of federal trial
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2022 8:07 AM CST
Updated Jan 31, 2022 6:40 PM CST
Ahmaud Arbery’s Killers Strike a Plea Deal
Ahmaud Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, opposes the plea deal in the federal case.   (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool)

(Newser) Update: A federal judge has rejected the plea deal on hate crimes charges Travis McMichael reached with prosecutors. US District Judge Lisa Wood made the unusual move at a hearing Monday after protests from the family of Ahmaud Arbery, who said the deal to avoid a federal trial for their son's killers had been done behind their back, and would make their prison time "easier to serve," reports Reuters. Under the deal, Travis McMichael and his father, Greg McMichael, would have spent the first 30 years of their life sentences in a federal prison instead of a state prison in Georgia. The rejection means Travis McMichael will now likely face a federal trial. Attorneys for both men have asked for more time to consider whether to change their pleas, CNN reports. Our story from earlier today follows:

The father and son convicted in state court of killing Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia have struck a plea deal to avoid a separate federal trial, reports NPR. The details of the deal prosecutors made with Travis and Greg McMichael have not yet been laid out in court documents, but a lawyer for Arbery's family says it involves where they will serve their time, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Attorney Lee Merritt says that in exchange for pleading guilty to hate crimes charges, the McMichaels will serve their time—or at least their first 30 years—in a "country club" federal prison rather than a state facility. The two men were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after their state trial.

“The DOJ has gone behind my back to offer the men who murdered my son a deal to make their time in prison easier for them to serve," says Arbery's mother, Wander Cooper-Jones, per CBS 47. "I have made it clear at every possible moment that I do not agree to offer these men a plea deal of any kind. I have been completely betrayed by the DOJ Lawyers.” More details are expected to be revealed at a hearing in court on Monday. The McMichaels' federal trial had been scheduled to start next month. It's not clear whether the third man convicted in Arbery's death, William "Roddie" Bryan, also planned to strike a plea deal. The men say they thought Arbery was guilty of neighborhood break-ins and acted in self-defense. (Read more about the Arbery case here.)

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