Witness testimony concluded Friday in the federal hate crimes trial of the three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery – Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan – after Travis McMichael’s former boss said he fired McMichael for lying to him about his role in Arbery’s death.
After four days of testimony from 20 witnesses, the government and defense teams rested their cases. Closing arguments are set to begin on Monday.
Joe Mandala, McMichael’s former boss at Metson Marine, testified that he first heard about the shooting when McMichael called him on the day it took place. According to Mandala’s testimony, McMichael said he had shot and killed somebody.
McMichael then asked if Mandala remembered him complaining about break-ins around his neighborhood, Mandala testified. Mandala recalled McMichael was calm and repeatedly said he was attacked, and that the shooting was self-defense.
McMichael, 36, his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, and their neighbor Bryan, 52, were convicted in November of felony murder and other charges for Arbery’s killing. The three White men were accused of chasing down and killing the 25-year-old Black man on February 23, 2020, in the Satilla Shores neighborhood, just outside the city of Brunswick, Georgia.
Mandala testified that McMichael stayed home from work the next day but returned on Tuesday, when he still appeared calm and retold the story.
But things changed when video of the shooting was released to the public in May and a co-worker made Mandala aware of the video, according to Mandala.
“I was shocked and upset. What he told me was a lie…that that was not what had happened was upsetting,” Mandala told jurors.
Mandala testified that as soon as he saw the video, he called his regional and security managers to report what he saw and let them know he wanted to fire McMichael. He also alerted the Port Operations Officer.
However, Mandala admitted under cross-examination that there were no complaints at work about McMichael’s performance or behavior.
Ahmaud Arbery mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said after court ended for the day that she was “confident” about the case and expected the jury to return a verdict as early as Tuesday or Wednesday.
“What we heard over the last two days, these guys were racists and these charges needed to be tried. The world needed to know what type people the McMichaels really were,” Cooper-Jones said.
She added that the McMichaels “killed Ahmaud simply because Ahmaud was Black.”
Other witness testimony
Another witness testified that Gregory McMichael once referred to a Black tenant in one of his rental properties as a “walrus.”
Kim Ballesteros, the government’s 16th witness and a former neighbor of the McMichaels, told jurors that during a conversation about problems between landlords and tenants, Gregory McMichael used racist language that made her uncomfortable.
“He was talking about a tenant that he had. She was a large Black woman who did not pay her rent very well, their name for her was the walrus,” Ballesteros told jurors.
Gregory McMichael told Ballesteros and her husband that since this woman didn’t pay her rent on time he disabled her air conditioning unit from the outside during the summer when it was hot, according to her testimony.
“You should have seen how fast her big fat Black a** came with the rent check,” Ballesteros recalled McMichael saying.
Another witness also mentioned alleged racist language used by the McMichaels.
The state’s 17th witness, Deputy Stephanie Britt of Glynn County Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs, testified about recorded jailhouse phone calls made by Travis and Gregory McMichael.
A message announcing the recording plays each time an inmate makes a call and plays again when the person they are calling picks up the phone, according to Britt.
Jurors heard one call between Gregory McMichael and someone who he “referred to as brother,” according to Britt.
During the call, the man tells Gregory McMichael that he can’t sleep and thinks about Gregory and Travis McMichael all the time. Greg replies, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
Britt added that the two men were “speaking of the situation that Greg was in,” referring to Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting.
Jurors also heard another call between Travis McMichael and his mother.
During their conversation, Travis McMichael complained that he was tired of being pursued and chased. According to Britt, he was talking about “the situation that landed him in jail,” meaning Arbery’s killing.
The 20th and final witness for the prosecution, Carole Sears, testified about a conversation she had with Gregory McMichael, where he shared racist thoughts in 2015 when she was visiting Georgia from New York.
Sears and her daughter were attending a legal hearing in Brunswick when the court assigned McMichael to drive for them.
On the way back to the airport, Sears testified that she commented that she had just found out that Black civil rights leader Julian Bond had died.
According to her testimony, McMichael replied, “I wish that guy had been in the ground years ago. All these Blacks are nothing but trouble. I wish they’d all die.” Sears said this was followed by an “angry rant” against Black people that lasted about two minutes and that she described as “really shocking.”
She testified that they rode the rest of the way in silence as she was “a little afraid” after that.
Sears said she recognized Gregory McMichael when she saw him after his arrest and contacted her former civil lawyer in Savannah, with whom she had previously discussed her conversation with McMichael in 2015. That attorney then reached out to prosecutors with Sears’ permission.
Friday’s testimonies come on the heels of an FBI intelligence analyst’s testimony Wednesday that texts and social media messages taken from the phones of Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan included racist insults about African Americans.
The defense only called one witness, Evelyn Cofer, a Satilla Shores resident who testified to having lived in the neighborhood for 48 years. Cofer said she had never met the McMichaels or Bryan.
Cofer also said she was a member of a Facebook group for Satilla Shores residents. She described it as a community bulletin board with posts about happenings in the neighborhood, “like crime.”
She referenced a post about a homeless man who may have been living under a nearby bridge. Cofer said she saw a man she described as slim with longish, unkempt hair. “He appeared to be Caucasian,” she said.
CNN’s Nick Valencia and Pamela Kirkland contributed to this report