Ahmaud Arbery’s Alleged Murderers Almost Escaped Charges, Thanks to Prosecutorial Misconduct
The defense attorneys in the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial—representing Travis McMichael, 35, his father Gregory McMichael, 65, and friend William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, who stand accused of tracking down and killing Arbery during a so-called citizen’s arrest—have arguably stolen the show. Kevin Gough, Bryan’s attorney, requested that “high-profile African Americans” like Al Sharpton not be allowed in the courtroom; “We don’t want any more black pastors coming in here,” he said. Laura Hogue, one of Gregory McMichael’s attorneys, upped the ante yesterday, referring to an outfit Arbery wore: “khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long, dirty toenails.”
Yet the theatrics from the defense have diverted scrutiny away from the seediness of the original prosecutor, Jackie Johnson, who in September was indicted on criminal charges for violating her oath of office and obstructing police when she allegedly showed the McMichaels favorable treatment and ensured they would not be arrested after Arbery’s death.
Such charges against prosecutors are almost unheard of.
In February 2020, the McMichaels chased Arbery in their truck through a Georgia neighborhood, telling police that they suspected Arbery was behind a string of burglaries. (Investigators later confirmed that there was only one such burglary and it had been reported seven weeks prior.) Bryan joined the pursuit in his own vehicle, with the three ultimately attempting to corner Arbery. Travis, the younger McMichael, fired his shotgun three times after a brief struggle with Arbery, who was unarmed, with an autopsy showing two shotgun wounds to his chest and another on his wrist.* He later died.
Several months went by before the government applied any rigorous investigation to the case. Johnson, then the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney, was a big part of that, according to the indictment against her.
The ex-prosecutor, who lost reelection in November 2020, allegedly leveraged her office to “show favor and affection to Greg McMichael,” her former employee, during the state’s initial probe of the case, and got in the way of law enforcement when she ordered them not to arrest Travis.
After recusing herself, Johnson then recruited Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George E. Barnhill to replace her. But she declined to mention that Barnhill had already been involved: He told police the day after the killin
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