JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The attorney for one of the men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, and convicted of federal hate crimes in his death is asking the judge to be lenient when sentencing him Monday.
Gregory McMichael’s attorney, A.J. Balbo, filed a motion earlier this week asking the judge to sentence Gregory McMichael to 20 years in prison at a federal correctional institution plus the seven years for brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence in the federal hate crimes case. This would be instead of a possible life sentence plus the seven years he could get, and instead of serving his state life sentence at a state facility first.
In February, a jury found that Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their former neighbor, William Roddie Bryan violated Arbery’s civil rights and killed him because of the color of his skin. Sentencing for all three men is set for Monday.
All three were convicted of murder in Arbery’s death in the state trial in November. Travis and Gregory McMichael were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and Bryan was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole in that case.
In the most recent motion, Gregory McMichael’s attorney cites Gregory McMichael’s safety, and his “myriad of medical conditions,” including depression, anxiety and cardiac issues for the reasons he is asking for leniency.
The judge in the federal case denied the McMichaels’ plea deal that would’ve allowed both men to serve the first 30 years of their sentences in federal custody instead of state prison. In exchange, they’d admit their crime was motivated by racial hatred.
“We fought so hard to get these guys in the state prison and once I gave them … I told very very adamantly that I wanted them to go to state prison and do their time that Judge Walmsley gave them on the seventh of January,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said at the time.
Balbo paints Gregory McMichael as a 66-year-old man “married to the same woman … for 39 years,” who doesn’t have any criminal history. He details Gregory’s time in the Navy where he said he saved the life of a shipmate who was African American.
Balbo also writes that Gregory served in the Glynn County Police Department as a patrol officer, a detective and a narcotics officer. The motion said he never received any complaints, and said he “balanced his work responsibilities with being the quintessential family man and enjoyed spending time with his wife and children.”
“Greg McMichael’s lifetime of public service can and should stand for something when it comes to sentencing: it cannot simply discounted as if it had never occurred,” the motion said.
He “also treasured the valuable bond he had with his only grandchild. He enjoyed spending time with him and deeply regrets that he will likely observe him grow up only from afar,” the motion adds.
Balbo writes that Gregory McMichael has heart issues, including a recent blocked artery. In July of 2022, 90 percent of his artery was blocked and a cardiologist had to perform a procedure to help the blockage. Gregory McMichael also suffers from depression and anxiety, the motion said, and needs “close observation” and access to good health care.
The motion said since Gregory McMichael is former law enforcement and has been convicted of a hate crime in the death of a young Black man, news that was reported across the world, he could be a target for violence.
“He should not be sent to a state prison system whose very operation may enable inmates to engage in dangerous and even deadly activity,” Balbo writes.
Gregory’s wife, Leigh McMichael, echoes Balbo in her letter to the judge.
“This is not a man who would chase someone and kill that person because of the color of the person’s skin. Greg is a devoted and loving husband, Father and Grandfather. Greg loved his community and Country and served to protect both through his Military career and Law Enforcement career. Although Greg has dealt with some pretty evil people, He believes that most people are good no matter of race,” she writes.
“The death of Ahmaud Arbery was a tragedy of epic proportions. Contrary to popular opinion, My Family cannot imagine the pain and hurt that the Arbery Family and friends must be experiencing. I am resigned to the fact there is nothing anyone in the McMichael Family can say or do to ease their hurt, but nonetheless, I offer my deepest sympathies. Please have Mercy on Greg. His intention in this tragedy was not to hurt anyone,” Leigh continued.
Sentencing for the three men starts Monday morning at 10 a.m.