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Scathing order explains why judge denied bond to father and son accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery

Chatham County Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley denied bond last month to the father and son accused of killing Georgia jogger Ahmaud Arbery earlier this year, and this month the judge detailed his reasons for the denial in a strongly worded order filed with the court on Wednesday.

Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, were denied bond on November 13 after a two day hearing in Glynn County, as CrimeOnline previously reported. The McMichaels, along with William Bryan Jr., 50, are charged with malice and felony murder in Arbery’s February 23 shooting death. Bryan filmed the father and son fatally shooting Arbery, 25, as he jogged in Brunswick.

In the order, Walmsley wrote that “the Defendants pose a significant danger to persons, community, or property,” citing their decision “to arm themselves, chase Arbery through a neighborhood using Travis McMichael’s pickup truck, and then use the truck to block Arbery’s path of travel” rather than calling 911.

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Bryan’s video of the actual shooting shows “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,” the judge wrote.

“Travis McMichael shot Arbery three times, and Arbery died in the middle of the street,” Walmsley wrote. ” … Moreover, buckshot from the discharge of the shotgun was found lodged in a home adjacent to the shooting.”

Further, Walmsley found that the defendants, particularly Gregory McMichael, “pose a significant risk of influencing witnesses and obstructing justices.”

The judge noted that police body camera video showed Gregory McMichael repeatedly inserting himself into conversations with law enforcement officials to tell them what happened and assert his own law enforcement background. He also telephoned Brunswick Judicial Court District Attorney Jackie Johnson regarding the incident. Johnson was eventually forced to recuse herself from the case and lost her bid for re-election in November.

The judge also noted Gregory McMichael’s conversations with Bryan and his wife Leigh McMichael, in which he asked her to have his daughter remove certain social media posts about the incident. He also said the elder McMichael sent a coded letter to Zackary Langford, a character witness called by his son during the bond hearing.

Langford’s testimony was also troubling to the judge. Langford, a childhood friend of Travis McMichael, told the court he’d never seen nor heard anything from his friend that would lead him to believe he was racist. But prosector Jesse Evans showed Langford a text message sent to him by McMichael on November 28, 2019, that mentioned “shooting a crackhead coon with gold teeth.” Langford replied by text, “he needed some Newports (cigarettes).”

Langford initially said he didn’t recall the exchange, but then said he did. “We were talking about a raccoon,” he said.

Walmsley took issue with that answer. “Instead of simply admitting the context of the matter once confronted, Langford suggested the offensive language was instead referencing a ‘raccoon,'” the judge wrote. “Clear from this exchange is that Langford was willing to say anything to help Travis McMichael.”

“As a result,” Walmsley wrote, “the Court must discount his testimony due to bias and impeachment.”

Finally, the judge said the seriousness of the charges and the McMichaels’s lack of jobs or real property in the county made them a significant risk to flee prosecution.

Bryan was not involved in the November hearing; he was denied bond earlier in the summer.

Read more about this case on CrimeOnline.

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[Featured image: Ahmaud Arbery/handout, Gregory and Travis McMichael/Glynn County Sheriff’s Office]