Defense attorneys for the father and son accused of shooting 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery said Friday that while “videos do not tell the full story,” there is more than one video of the deadly February incident that may prove their clients have been wrongly vilified.
“This is not some sort of hate crime fueled by racism,” defense attorney Frank Hogue said in a Friday press conference. “It is and remains the case, however, that a young African-American male has lost his life to violence.”
Gregory McMichael and his son, 34-year-old Travis McMichael, are facing murder and aggravated assault charges for allegedly chasing and shooting Arbery on Feb. 23 while he was jogging on a residential street in Georgia. Both are being held without bond in a Glynn County jail.
The slaying—which some have described as a “lynching” with racial undertones—and the subsequent investigation spurred a national outcry and a Department of Justice investigation days after a graphic video emerged of the shooting in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick. The video depicted the McMichaels, who were armed, chasing Arbery in a white pickup truck before shots were fired during a brief struggle.
The charges against the McMichaels came more than two months after Arbery, who was unarmed, was shot. Local officials had argued it was “justifiable homicide” and the case was shuffled to three prosecutors—two of whom are now under investigation—before it was ultimately referred to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
On Friday, however, Hogue and his wife and law partner, Laura Hogue, said they believed new information about the case would get their client, Gregory McMichael, released from jail.
“This case, at first, appears to contain some of the same elements that feed into the despicable and violent history of racism in our country just based upon what little the public knows about this case up until now, but this case is not that story,” Frank Hogue said.
Despite the national outcry, defense attorneys for both McMichaels urged the public not to “rush to judgment” about their clients. Hogue said the incident was neither a hate crime nor a murder.
“The how and the why of this story just cannot be shoehorned into this narrative,” Franklin said. “Greg McMichael did not commit murder. This is not some sort of hate crime fueled by racism.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation alleges that on Feb. 23 the father and son, armed with a shotgun and a .357 Magnum, confronted Arbery, who was about two miles from his home before Travis McMichael shot him. The incident was captured on video by William Bryan, who authorities now say may also face charges.
The two white men have said they were chasing Arbery along the tree-lined road because they wanted to make a citizen’s arrest on a man they suspected of being a burglar—though authorities have said there were no break-ins reported in the seven weeks prior to Arbery’s death.
Security videos have since emerged of a man, who appeared to be Arbery, walking around an unfinished property in both the weeks and the hours leading up to the shooting.
However, an attorney for the property’s owner said on Friday that three new security camera videos point to the possibility that Arbery may have been going into the opened-frame home for a drink of water. The videos, which were taken in December and February, appear to show a black man in a t-shirt and shorts “coming onto the property for water,” J. Elizabeth Graddy, attorney for homeowner Larry English, said in a statement.
The home, which had a video system that alerted English when someone was on the property, captured a person believed to be Arbery going to two water sources in the construction site before returning to his run. One of the videos, Graddy said, is dated Feb. 11—less than two weeks before the shooting and the date one neighbor said the McMichaels confronted Arbery for entering the home.
Hogue said Friday that the defense team has amassed additional witnesses, documents, and more video footage of the botched citizen’s arrest—which he believed “tells a very different story, both about Greg, about his son, Travis, and about Ahmaud Arbery.” He said that “full story has not been revealed” and would be put before a jury.
Laura Hogue claimed that the now-viral video of the incident has issues with the date and time stamps which may alter the public’s current understanding of the events. The defense attorney’s plan to use this new evidence to ask a judge to set bond for the McMichaels so they can be released pending trial.
“We know some critically important facts. Those facts point to a very different narrative than the one that brings you all here today,” Laura Hogue said. “Those facts will be revealed where all facts that matter will be revealed—in a courtroom.”
Bob Rubin and Jason Sheffield, attorneys for Travis, echoed the Hogues’ sentiment in a Thursday news conference. They claimed that, while the shooting was captured on video, several factors remain unknown about the events leading up to the killing.
“Right now we are starting at the end,” Sheffield said, adding that his team was also seeking a bond for Travis. “We know the ending. What we don't know is the beginning.”
He added: “People who know better to rush to judgment, people who know better to engage in stereotyping are rushing to judgment and stereotyping. And that saddens me.”
The Arbery family’s attorneys noted the apparent double standard in the McMichaels’ pleas.
“We agree with the attorneys for Travis McMichael that the justice system affords all citizens the presumption of innocence and that there shouldn’t be a rush to judgment or stereotyping,” they said in a Thursday statement. “We only wish that their client, Travis McMichael, had provided that same presumption of innocence to Ahmaud Arbery before chasing and killing him.”
Since the video was released on the internet, civil-rights activists, celebrities, and politicians have pressed for charges and an investigation into the delayed action from law enforcement.
On Thursday, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, and 110 additional organizations wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr calling for a “full and thorough hate crimes investigation” into the case and a federal civil rights investigation. Their demand came a day after more than 80 lawmakers, spearheaded by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, issued a letter to the DOJ with a similar plea.
“Ahmaud Arbery’s only crime was ‘Jogging While Black’,” Ben Crump, a civil rights attorney representing the Arbery family, tweeted on Friday. “It’s as simple as that. This was a hate crime and he was murdered for the color of his skin!”