FBI agent: Defendants in Arbery killing used racial slurs

Posted at 12:19 PM, February 16, 2022 and last updated 7:58 PM, July 17, 2023

By RUSS BYNUM Associated Press

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — Two of the three white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery repeatedly used racial slurs in text messages and social media posts, an FBI intelligence analyst testified Wednesday in their federal hate crimes trial.

FBI agent Amy Vaughan led the jury through dozens of conversations that Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan had with others, identified only by their initials, in the months and years before the 25-year-old Black man’s killing. The FBI wasn’t able to access Greg McMichael’s phone because it was encrypted, Vaughan said.

In this courtroom sketch by Steve Bridges, defendants Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan listen to testimony during the federal hate crimes trial in Brunswick, Georgia, on Feb. 14, 2022. (Steve Bridges via CNN)

In text and Facebook conversations with friends, Travis McMichael frequently used the N-word to describe Black people. In a Facebook conversation with a friend, he also shared a video of a young Black boy dancing on a TV show with a racist song that included the N-word playing over it. He also said that Black people “ruin everything” and repeatedly said he was glad he wasn’t a Black person, using a racial slur.

Bryan also used the N-word, but his preferred slur was one that refers to a derogatory stereotype about a Black person’s lips, Vaughan said. Over a number of years, Bryan exchanged racist messages on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In messages sent in the days surrounding Arbery’s killing, Bryan was clearly upset that his daughter was dating a Black man.

Greg McMichael posted a meme on Facebook in 2016 saying white Irish slaves were treated worse than any race in the U.S. but that the Irish aren’t asking for handouts.

On the first day of testimony Tuesday, the jury heard from neighbors of the defendants who described how the February 2020 fatal shooting shocked them. They also watched graphic cellphone video and saw crime scene photos of Arbery’s bloody body before hearing excerpts of interviews the defendants gave to police.

The McMichaels armed themselves and used a pickup truck to chase Arbery as he ran through their coastal Georgia neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. A neighbor, Bryan, joined the pursuit in his own truck and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery with a shotgun.

FILE – U.S. District Court Southern District of Georgia in Brunswick, Georgia. (Court TV)

No arrests were made until the video leaked online two months later.

Both McMichaels and Bryan were convicted of murder last fall in a Georgia state court and sentenced to life in prison.

>>>WATCH TRIAL ON DEMAND: GA v. McMICHAEL, et al. (2021)

All three pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges accusing them of violating Arbery’s civil rights and targeting him because he was Black.

A jury of eight white members, three Black people and one Hispanic person was sworn in Monday.

Defense attorneys said there’s no excuse for their clients’ use of slurs but insisted that their deadly pursuit of Arbery was motivated by an earnest, though erroneous, suspicion that Arbery had committed crimes.

For the latest news and trial updates on U.S. v. McMichael, et al., visit CourtTV.com/Arbery