Travis and Gregory McMichael have reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that may help them avoid their upcoming federal hate crime trial, the Associated Press reports. The father and son, along with their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., were convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery last fall and sentenced to life in prison earlier this month.
All three men are also facing federal hate crime charges in Arbery’s death. However, in the plea deal, which was filed Sunday evening (Jan. 30); U.S. Justice Department prosecutors asked the U.S. District Court to “dispose” of those charges. Bryan was not mentioned in the proposed agreement.
According to Lee Merritt, an attorney representing Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones, the deal would also allow the McMichaels to serve the first 30 years of their life prison sentences in federal custody rather than in harsher Georgia prisons. Merritt called the proposed deal a “huge accommodation to the men who hunted down and murdered Ahmaud Arbery.”
“Wanda Cooper-Jones kept her promise to Ahmaud Arbery to get her son justice. Today the DOJ is attempting to ‘snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,’” he added in a tweet. “We will not allow it.”
Cooper-Jones also reacted to the proposed deal via her attorney.
“The DOJ has gone behind my back to offer the men who murdered my son a deal to make their time in prison easier to serve,” she said in a statement. “I have been completely betrayed by the DOJ lawyers.”
The proposed deal still needs to be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood. The judge is set to hold a hearing today (Jan. 31) to discuss any remaining concerns ahead of the federal hate crime trial, which is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Feb. 7.