A judge in Georgia recently explained why he decided to deny bail last month to Gregory and Travis McMichael. Both men are facing felony murder charges for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. The men will remain behind bars for the duration of the legal proceedings.
Chatham County Judge Timothy Walmsley explained his decision in a court document obtained by a local news outlet. He argued that the two men pose a “significant risk of influencing witnesses and obstructing justice” in a letter.
Greg McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, are waiting for trial following the Feb. 23 incident that claimed the life of Arbery, a black man who was shot by the younger suspect while he was on a run. Video of the incident was filmed by William “Roddie” Bryan, the third man who was involved in the altercation. He is also facing charges for his role in Arbery’s killing.
Walmsley cited a voicemail that Gregory allegedly sent to Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson shortly after the shooting as an example of the potential risk involved in allowing bail. In the recording, which was played during the bond hearing, the older McMichael, a retired police officer, asked Johnson to call him “as soon as you possibly can” and that he and his son were “involved in a shooting.” He also stated that he would need “some advice” from his former employer.
Gregory worked as an investigator for Johnson’s office for 20 years before he resigned. The judge referred to the voicemail as “remarkable” and indicated that he was trying to take advantage of Johnson’s influence. The McMichaels’ attorneys have denied this claim.
But the judge continued, noting that after the shooting, Gregory McMichael might have attempted to impede the investigation when he asked his wife to delete posts on social media that were a “potential source.”
From CBS News:
“In addition, Walmsley wrote, Gregory McMichael may have tried to impede the investigation while in custody by asking his wife to delete social media posts and by mailing a coded letter to Langford. And in a phone call after the shooting, Walmsley wrote, Gregory McMichael is heard telling an unknown person, ‘No good deed goes unpunished’ in reference to Arbery’s death.“
The McMichaels claimed that they began chasing Arbery because they suspected that he was involved in a number of break-ins committed in their neighborhood. In the document, Walmsley noted that at the time of the shooting, Arbery wasn’t “reliably identified.” He pointed out that the two men “assumed” he committed a crime. Instead of calling law enforcement, they chose to “chase” the young man through the neighborhood in Travis’ pickup truck.
“Travis McMichael shot Arbery three times, and Arbery died in the middle of the street,” Walmsley wrote. “Based on the video admitted into evidence, there appears there was little or no attempt by the defendants to have a conversation with Arbery, nor was there an attempt to call the police so the police could question Arbery.”
Judge Walmsley expressed concerns that the two defendants could pose flight risks if they are released before trial because they face life sentences without the possibility of parole. He continued, stating that “potential evidence of racism” related to racist social media posts from the two men could constitute a “significant risk of flight.”
All three men involved in the encounter pleaded not guilty. Defense attorney Laura Hogue claimed that the McMichaels’ actions were self-defense. She argued that Arbery attacked Travis and that both men were “authorized to protect his neighborhood against crime the way he did.”
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