- The Feb. 23 murder was recorded by William Bryan, one of the indicted men.
A Georgia judge denied setting bond for one of the three men indicted for murdering Ahmaud Arbery, after his mother pleaded for him to remain behind bars.
Gregory McMichael and his son Travis were arraigned on Friday and entered not guilty pleas for allegations that they unjustifiably ambushed, shot and killed Arbery, as William Bryan recorded the incident. Arbery was Black; the three defendants are white.
Bryan, who was denied bond, was also arraigned on Friday, and Kevin Gough, his attorney, entered a not guilty plea on his client's behalf and then proceeded to argue for the judge to release him on bond. The McMichael's did not argue for bond on Friday.
"I'm asking this court to say no, and not allow him [Bryan] to go home," said Wanda Cooper-Jones, the mother of Arbery, in court. "I stand before you as the mother of Ahmaud and ask you to give Mr. Bryan the same energy he gave my son."
Arbery's father, Marcus Arbery Sr., submitted a brief written statement that the prosecutor read in which he also asked Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley to keep Bryan in jail pending trial: "I suffered the deepest loss a family can endure, when the McMichaels and Bryan acted as my son's judge, jury and executioner."
Gough told Walmsley that he is concerned about how long his client will be sitting in jail because of the COVID-19 climate and it's unclear when a jury trial can actually commence.
"Bryan is the only eyewitness in this case, he is the state's star witness. If he didn't make the video, there will be no case," said Gough, who maintains Bryan's innocence in the Feb. 23 murder.
The prosecutor objected to Bryan's release because additional charges may be filed against him based on a "number of text messages on his phone that are filled with racist, bigoted remarks" and because other law enforcement agencies are investigating him.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced on Friday that a sex crime investigation has been launched against Bryan as requested by the Glynn County Police Department. "The investigation is active and ongoing," according to the GBI.
"William Bryan doesn't feel he did anything wrong; he is dangerous and unapologetic, so I ask for the judge to keep him behind bars," said Cooper-Jones.
The McMichaels and Bryan were indicted by a grand jury last month with nine counts of malice and felony murder, as well as aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment charges. Hate crime charges were not included in the indictment as Georgia passed hate crime laws on the heels of Arbery's death.
The incident started after Gregory McMichael, a retired police officer, suspected that Arbery was the person who previously broke into a neighbor's home in the Satilla Shores neighborhood of Brunswick, Georgia, according to a police report.
Gregory McMichael alerted Travis and at some point called Bryan, who is known as "Roddie," to join them to go after the alleged burglar, according to a police report.
The McMichaels and Bryan denied knowing each other before the murder, but, according to prosecutors, one of the McMichaels called Bryan an "ally."
Arbery's family says he was out on his daily jog when he was ambushed by the men; Gregory McMichael, 64, was armed with a .357 magnum handgun while Travis McMichael, 34, had a shotgun.
"The defendant [Bryan] used a truck on a man running on a road. . . . He used his vehicle as a weapon, which is a danger to the community," the prosecutor said on Friday, adding, "Mr. Arbery's palm print was found on the side of the truck and Mr. Bryan said the victim was 'trapped.'"
William Bryan, 50, is pictured in a booking photo released by the Glynn County Sheriff's Office in Brunswick, Ga.
Bryan's cellphone captured Arbery jogging before he encountered Travis McMichael.
The younger McMichael and Arbery tussled with the shotgun as Gregory stood inside their white truck's open flat-bed trunk. Three shots were fired, striking Arbery in the chest.
Arbery died on the scene. He was 25.
During the three months before Bryan's brief cellphone video was leaked onto social media May 5, charges were not filed against any of the men and two prosecutors recused themselves from investigating the case by citing conflicts of interest.
Protests sparked, and the local NAACP chapter and civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and S. Lee Merritt got involved, calling for the justice they said the Arbery family deserved.
Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, right, in a photos released on May 7, 2020, after their arrest in Georgia.
Less than three days after District Attorney Tom Durden requested the Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe Arbery's death, the McMichaels were charged, and on May 22, Bryan was charged.
If convicted, they all face life in prison without the possibility of parole.