Defendant in Ahmaud Arbery killing asked for plea deal, Arbery family attorney says

An attorney for one of the three men on trial in the death of Ahmaud Arbery sought a plea deal for his client, but was swiftly turned down by prosecutors, an attorney for Arbery’s mother said.

Kevin Gough sought the deal Thursday for William “Roddie” Bryan, according to Lee Merritt, who represents Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones.

The specific terms of the deal, which was first reported by CBS News, are unclear.

Attorneys for the defendants, each of whom have their own legal team, rested their cases Thursday. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday.

Latonia Hines, a spokesperson for the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, which was appointed to handle the high-profile case, declined to comment Friday.

“We would never discuss plea deals, if there even were one,” she said.

Gough did not immediately return phone and email requests seeking comment.

Bryan, along with father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, chased Arbery in separate trucks after they spotted him running in their neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020.

Travis McMichael shot Arbery, 25, who was Black, with a shotgun at close range. Bryan filmed the fatal encounter on his cellphone. The three defendants, who are white, were arrested months later after the video leaked and brought the world’s attention to the case. Arbery’s death has been likened by many, including his family and civil rights leaders, to a modern-day lynching. The defendants, who are charged with murder and other crimes, face up to life in prison if convicted.

Defense lawyers have said that the defendants suspected Arbery was a burglar and that they were attempting to carry out a citizen’s arrest, which was legal at the time. They also contend that Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense. The prosecution cast doubt on that defense during the trial and have said the men had no “immediate knowledge” of whether a crime had been committed.

Arbery had been spotted several times on security camera video at a nearby home under construction. The videos never showed Arbery taking anything from the property.

“I feel like the evidence is overwhelming of these men’s guilt and that no reasonable jury could conclude that these men are not guilty,” Merritt said in an interview this week.

Travis McMichael was the only defendant to testify. Gough has made repeated failed attempts to prohibit Black pastors and civil rights leaders from sitting with Arbery’s family in the courtroom and has filed multiple motions requesting a mistrial, each of which has been dismissed.

On Thursday, the defense called six residents of the Satilla Shores neighborhood to the witness stand, including one woman, Sube Lawrence, who testified under cross-examination that Travis McMichael had told her that he and his father planned to leak the video before it was released and that she told him she would help share it.

Lawrence, an administrator of a Facebook group that neighbors use to discuss crime in the area, said Travis McMichael was accepted to the group under a fake name after Arbery was killed so he could see what was being said. She said his original Facebook page had allegedly been hacked.

Gough complained to the judge after the residents testified.

“I heard testimony today, for lack of a better characterization, as vigilante social media posts or communications involving co-defendants,” Gough said.

He said that some of the testimony Thursday “was more prejudicial than probative.”