Ahmaud Arbery's killers sentenced to life in prison

By Adrienne Vogt, Fernando Alfonso III, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Mahtani, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 7:06 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022
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6:31 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Here's what happened today in the sentencing of the 3 men who killed Ahmaud Arbery

Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by Judge Timothy Walmsley on Friday in the death of Ahmaud Arbery.

William “Roddie” Bryan was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.  

Walmsley addressed Arbery's family ahead of the sentencing, warning that "sentencing does not generally provide closure."

"In this case, I think many people are seeking closure. The mother, the father, the community, and maybe even parts of the nation, but closure is hard to define and is a granular concept. It's seen differently by all depending on their perspective and the prism of your lives," Walmsley said.

A jury consisting of nine White women, two White men and one Black man, found the men guilty on a raft of charges, including felony murder, in November.  

Here's what else happened in court Friday:

  • A minute of silence: Walmsley called for silence for one minute before moving forward with the sentencing. "That one minute represents a fraction of the time that Ahmaud Arbery was running in Satilla Shores," he said, before going silent. The chase of Arbery occurred for about five minutes, the judge said once he resumed speaking. "When I thought about this, I thought from a lot of different angles, and I kept coming back to the terror that must have been in the mind of the young man running through Satilla Shores," he said
  • Arbery's mother says her son's killers did not deserve leniency: Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, addressed the court before the sentencing of the three men convicted of killing her son. “These men have chose to lie and attack my son and his surviving family. They each have no remorse and do not deserve any leniency," Cooper-Jones said in her victim impact statement. "They chose to treat him differently than other people who frequently visited their community. And when they couldn't sufficiently scare him or intimidate him, they killed him,” she said.  
  • A father left without his son: Marcus Arbery, the father of Ahmaud, shared a victim impact statement ahead of the sentencing. "You know something that just does not sit right with me at this time? The man who killed my son has sat in this courtroom every single day next to his father. I'll never get that chance to sit next to my son ever again — not at the dinner table, not at the holidays and not at a wedding," he said Friday in the courtroom. "When I close my eyes, I see his execution in my mind over and over. I'll see that for the rest of my life."
  • Arbery was "hunted down and shot": Walmsley said Arbery was "hunted down and shot" before the sentencing of the three men convicted of killing the 25-year-old Black man running in a Georgia neighborhood in 2020. Walmsley described the events that led to the shooting of Arbery and commented on remarks made by the three convicted men. "In my opinion, Greg McMichael very early on in this tried to establish a narrative. He made comments like 'Ahmaud Arbery was trapped like a rat,' 'stop or I'll blow your — and I won't repeat it again — head off.' Effectively admitted that he wasn't sure what Ahmaud Arbery had done wrong," Walmsley said.
  • Whether to profit from Arbery's death: After the three men convicted for the murder of Arbery were sentenced to life in prison, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski requested that they not be "allowed to make any money off of their actions, such as a book deal, a movie deal, social media deal or anything along any way, shape or��form make any money off of this experience, this conviction, and this trial." She additionally asked if "any money be made, that it go into a fund for the Arbery family." Walmsley told Dunikoski to submit a formal request to the court and said he would review it.
6:36 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

"I think we finally got justice for Ahmaud," Arbery's mother says

Wanda Cooper-Jones said her family is “very thankful” that the three men who killed her son, Ahmaud Arbery, were sentenced to life in prison Friday.

“They got what they truly deserved today. I think we finally got justice for Ahmaud," Cooper-Jones told CNN this evening.

Watch the interview:

5:09 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Arbery's mother: "I knew that we would come out with a victory"

From CNN’s Devon M. Sayers and Alta Spells 

Ahmaud Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones, center, walks out of the Glynn County Courthouse surrounded by supporters after a judge sentenced Greg McMichael, his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan to life in prison, Friday, January, 7, 2022, in Brunswick, Georgia.
Ahmaud Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones, center, walks out of the Glynn County Courthouse surrounded by supporters after a judge sentenced Greg McMichael, his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan to life in prison, Friday, January, 7, 2022, in Brunswick, Georgia. (Stephen B. Morton/AP)

After nearly two years of waiting, the mother of Ahmaud Arbery told reporters she knew her family would “come out with a victory,” after all three men convicted of killing her son were sentenced to life in prison.  

"When I entered the courtroom on October 18th, I sat in that courtroom for five weeks straight, but I knew that we would come out with a victory,” said Wanda Cooper-Jones following the sentencing hearing for Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan.  

“My prayer was to get justice for Ahmaud, he (God) fought for us in the courts, he (God) gave us a fair judge,” said Cooper-Jones as she thanked God and the prosecutors.

She also praised Judge Timothy Walmsley who she said, “gave us a very good verdict and he gave us a very good sentence.” 

"Back when Ahmaud was killed on the 23rd of February, the city of Brunswick thought that I would have to fight this fight alone, so they chose to ignore me because they thought they would have to face me alone. But they didn’t know that I had you guys to stand with me,” Cooper-Jones added.

4:24 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Here's a breakdown of the prison sentences for the 3 men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery

From CNN’s Alta Spells and Devon M. Sayers  

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A father and son and their neighbor have been sentenced to life in prison after they were convicted of murdering 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery while he was jogging through a neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia, in February 2020.  

Judge Timothy Walmsley sentenced Travis McMichael, the man who shot Arbery, and his father Gregory McMichael, who watched the shooting from the back of a pickup truck, to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  

Their neighbor, William Bryan, who recorded video of Arbery’s last moments, was sentenced to life with parole for his role in the death. Bryan, 52, will not be eligible for parole under Georgia law until he has served 30 years in prison because he was convicted of serious violent felonies. 

In addition to the life sentences for murder, Walmsley imposed additional sentences for other felony charges. 

The additional sentences are:  

  • For Travis McMichael, 35, Walmsley imposed additional imprisonment sentences of 20 years for McMichael’s aggravated assault conviction and five years for his criminal attempt to commit a felony conviction. The judge said the additional sentences will be served concurrent to each other but consecutive to the life sentence, totaling a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 20 additional years in prison.
  • For Gregory McMichael, the judge imposed additional imprisonment sentences of 20 years for McMichael’s aggravated assault conviction, 10 years for his false imprisonment conviction, and five years for his criminal attempt to commit a felony conviction. The judge said the additional sentences will be served concurrent to each other but consecutive to the life sentence, totaling a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 20 additional years in prison. 
  • For William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., the judge imposed additional imprisonment sentences of 10 years for his false imprisonment conviction and five years for his criminal attempt to commit a felony conviction. The judge ruled that the additional sentence totaling 15 years will be suspended, resulting in a total sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole. 

More context: A jury consisting of nine White women, two White men and one Black man, found the men guilty on state charges of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit a felony in November.  

What happens next: The defense teams for all three men have said they plan to appeal their clients' convictions. 

The men will be back in court in February, for the beginning of their federal trial where they will face hate crime charges for Arbery’s death. 

4:02 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Ahmaud Arbery's family cried as sentences were announced

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

Ahmaud Arbery's sister Jasmine Arbery wipes a tear from her eyes in the Glynn County Courthouse, on January 7, 2022 in Brunswick, Georgia.
Ahmaud Arbery's sister Jasmine Arbery wipes a tear from her eyes in the Glynn County Courthouse, on January 7, 2022 in Brunswick, Georgia. (Stephen B. Morton/Pool/Getty Images)

As three men were sentenced to life in prison for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, the reaction inside the courtroom was one of somber relief, while outside there was emotional approval.

“They erupted in cheers … I heard people chanting, ‘life sentences,’” reported CNN’s Dianne Gallagher from outside the court in Brunswick, Georgia.

Inside the courtroom, meanwhile, Aubrey’s family met the sentencing with a greater degree of sadness.

“Ahmaud Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, put her head down ... His family was crying, his father, his mother, they were crying,” shared Gallagher, adding, “There weren't outbursts, there wasn't a lot of audible emotion.”

Gallagher reported that outside the court, the assembled crowd remained still until the sentencing ruling was revealed.

“Out here I can tell you that it was almost silent. Everyone was paying attention to televisions and phones and audio until the sentences were handed down,” she said. “That's when the cheers erupted.”

3:30 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Prosecutor requests Arbery killers not be able to profit off conviction or trial

After the three men convicted for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced to life in prison, prosecutor Linda Dunikoski requested that they "are not allowed to make any money off of their actions, such as a book deal, a movie deal, social media deal or anything along any way, shape or form make any money off of this experience, this conviction, and this trial." 

She additionally asked if "any money be made, that it go into a fund for the Arbery family." 

Kevin Gough, the attorney for William "Roddie" Bryan, brought up his concerns about her request:

"When the court does that, my only concern is how that would impact Mr. Bryan's ability to raise money for his defense, for his appeal. I wouldn't want to be in a situation where he couldn't do that inadvertently because of a sentencing condition." 

Bryan was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, while Travis McMichael and Gregory McMichael were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Judge Timothy Walmsley told Dunikoski to submit a formal request to the court and he would review it.

"I don't want to just offhandedly grant the request without understanding exactly what the terms are that the court is seeking. I would like something in writing from the state, what the terms are that the state would be seeking," he said.

3:11 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

William Bryan sentenced to life in prison with parole for murder of Ahmaud Arbery 

From CNN’s Alta Spells and Devon M. Sayers  

William "Roddie" Bryan in court on January 7.
William "Roddie" Bryan in court on January 7. (Stephen B. Morton/Pool/AP)

William “Roddie” Bryan, one of the three men convicted of murdering 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, has been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.  

3:10 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Gregory McMichael sentenced to life in prison without parole for murder of Ahmaud Arbery

From CNN’s Alta Spells and Devon M. Sayers 

Gregory McMichael in court on January 7.
Gregory McMichael in court on January 7. (Stephen B. Morton/Pool/AP)

Gregory McMichael, one of the three men convicted of murdering 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

His son, Travis McMichael, was also sentenced to life without parole.

The judge has not yet announced the sentence for William "Roddie" Bryan.

3:10 p.m. ET, January 7, 2022

Travis McMichael sentenced to life in prison without parole in the death of Ahmaud Arbery

Travis McMichael in court on January 7.
Travis McMichael in court on January 7. (Stephen B. Morton/Pool/AP)

Judge Timothy Walmsley has sentenced Travis McMichael to life in prison without parole in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Black jogger killed in February 2020.

"I've read somewhere, and I don't remember where it was, that at a minimum, Ahmaud Arbery's death should force us to consider expanding our definition of what a neighbor may be and how we treat them. I argue that maybe a neighbor is more than the people who just own property around your house. I believe that assuming the worst in others we show our worst character," Walmsley said before the sentencing.