Ahmaud Arbery's Killers Sentenced In Federal Court | Crooked Media
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August 08, 2022
What A Day
Ahmaud Arbery's Killers Sentenced In Federal Court

In This Episode

  • Three men were sentenced in federal court for their role in the February 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The man who shot Arbery, Travis McMichael, and his father Gregory McMichael were sentenced to life in prison. William Bryan, who was with the McMichaels that day, got 35 years.
  • A new study published in the Nature Climate Change journal found that climate change can worsen the spread of infectious diseases like malaria, cholera and anthrax. It also details how climate disasters can wreak havoc on healthcare infrastructure and make it harder to treat sick people.
  • And in headlines: a nuclear power plant in Ukraine was damaged, indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran concluded, and the FBI raided Mar-A-Lago.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It is Tuesday, August 9th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: And I’m Mary Annaïse Heglar and this is What A Day, the podcast that will be proven to be all over Trump’s iPad once the FBI reports the results of his raid on Mar-a-Lago. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It’s actually why the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago. [laughing] They wanted to prove that we are his favorite podcast. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, yeah, yeah! That seems like something the FBI would want to get to the bottom of, Trump’s favorite podcast. [laughing]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: On today’s show, a new study says climate change will make hundreds of infectious diseases even worse. Plus, the January 6th committee has now two years worth of texts by Alex Jones. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: But first, yesterday, three men were sentenced in federal court for their role in the February 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery was murdered while he was out for a jog in Glynn County, Georgia. The man who shot Arbery, Travis McMichael, and his father, Gregory McMichael, were sentenced to life in prison. William Bryan, who was with the McMichaels that day, got 35 years. The sentencing comes six months after they were convicted of federal hate crimes earlier this year. Here’s Ahmaud’s father, Marcus, speaking in front of the courthouse right after the announcement. 

 

[clip of Marcus Arbery Sr.] It was hard to look at them every day as a father, and they show no remorse for how they took his life. That’s the thing that really bothered me real bad. And then they asked for mercy. They didn’t give him no mercy that day. So we don’t want no mercy for those [indistinct] was none. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm. I can’t imagine the pain he must be in. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s just devastating. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, seriously. So, Josie, this isn’t the first sentence that these three men have received, right? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: No, it’s not. So the three men were already convicted in state court of murder and aggravated assault, among other charges. In January, the McMichaels were sentenced to life plus 20 years without the possibility of parole. And William Bryan received 30 years. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: So given that they were already sentenced to life without parole, does this federal sentence change anything for the three men? After all, if they hadn’t been convicted in federal court, they’d be in prison anyway. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s true. And in many ways you’re totally correct. The men were pretty much never going to get out of prison anyway. So the fact that they have this federal sentence probably doesn’t change their future. And now, if it had been up to the three men, the federal sentencing would have changed one thing. It would have changed where they serve their sentence. On Monday, they asked federal judge Lisa Godbey Wood to send them to federal prison rather than state prison. But Judge Wood said she had, quote, “neither the authority nor the inclination to send them into federal prison instead.” The men are currently still in a local jail as they awaited this final step in the process. But now they will be sent to state prison. Meaning the federal sentence, like you said, really didn’t change much about what happens next. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm. So I want to get to the question about where they serve in a moment. But why try them in federal court at all if this new sentence really doesn’t change anything? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s a really good question. So there are a couple of reasons. First, it’s kind of an insurance policy for prosecutors. So you may remember that the men were very, very connected to law enforcement. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm hmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And they weren’t even arrested for weeks after the shooting. And so given the possibility that state court wouldn’t convict the men or wouldn’t sentence them to a significant time, the federal government also indicted them to ensure that prosecutors would get another shot at conviction. Right. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm okay. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: But even though they ultimately were convicted in state court, the federal sentence could still matter. Because if for whatever reason, their state sentences were overturned or the men were somehow granted clemency, they would still have to serve their federal sentence. So it’s kind of like a back up sentence, right? 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm hmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: There’s another reason that federal authorities bring charges in some cases that make national news such as this one. And so a little bit less technical, as former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick put it, quote, “in the most egregious examples, even if there has been a conviction in a state court, there is a national interest in there being federal consequences.” So some of this, in other words, is like about optics. It’s about signaling something in the country, like almost a messaging tool sometimes when federal authorities bring charges like this. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. That makes sense. So you mentioned that the men would have preferred federal prison over state prison. Why is that? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So the main reason is because they apparently feel that they’re at greater risk for harm in state prison. Travis McMichael’s lawyer asked the judge to send him to federal prison for at least what she called a, quote, “cooling off period.” She said that sending him to a state prison could subject him to, quote, “vigilante justice.” 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Ahh. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Okay. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: The irony. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: You hear it, right? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I heard it. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Everybody hears it. Okay. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Yeah. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Just making sure. Just making sure. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Okay. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And she also acknowledged that right? She acknowledged the quote, “rich irony in her client now being concerned about such a thing.” But it also goes beyond this risk of them in particular being harmed. And it goes to this broader thing about Georgia state prisons, which are notoriously horrible. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm hmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: In fact, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is currently investigating the Georgia state prison system, saying that it has safety issues because of, quote, “staffing shortages, training issues and other factors.” And McMichael’s lawyer also raised these concerns and brought up a report that stated that in 2020 and 2021 alone, there were 53 homicides in Georgia prisons. So it’s definitely clear this is not an enjoyable place or a remotely safe place for anyone to be. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: McMichaels or not, these guys are not. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, I would agree that they would not be safe in state prison. But, yeah, like you said, it doesn’t sound like anybody is. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Which raises some other questions. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: That we won’t get into. So I know this is the last step in the trial process. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: And that sometimes statements are made at sentencing. We heard the clip of Arbery’s dad earlier. Did anyone else speak? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So in addition to his father, other members of Arbery’s family spoke. His aunt said, quote, “I don’t want them to have an easy life because we will never have an easy life again.” What’s interesting is that for the first time, two of the three defendants also spoke publicly, which hasn’t happened at all. William Bryan said, quote, “I never intended any harm to him.” Gregory McMichael also spoke saying, quote, “The loss that you’ve endured is beyond description. I’m sure that my words mean very little to you, but I want to assure you, I never wanted any of this to happen.” His son, Travis, the actual shooter, said nothing. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, probably wise. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: I mean, there’s no way to make these words make sense. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Right? It’s hard to imagine after you chase a guy. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Right. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: For a very long time and threaten him, that you didn’t see what was possible here. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Right. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: But you know. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Well, let’s go from one uncomfortable subject to another. Let’s talk about climate change now. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Oh great. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: President Biden was in Kentucky yesterday. He toured the parts of the state recently ravaged by deadly floods that killed dozens of people. 

 

[clip of President Biden] It’s going to take a while to get through this. But I promise you, we’re not leaving. The Federal Government and all its resources, we’re not leaving, as long as it takes we’re going to be here. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: And his press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, added that extreme weather is yet quote “another reminder of the intensifying and accelerating impacts of climate change.” 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, and speaking of, there’s a new study out yesterday that links climate change to worsening infectious diseases. So that sounds great. Can you tell us about that? 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: It’s not great. I can just go ahead–

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: –and spoil that part? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I figured. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: [laughing] It’s not awesome. [laugh] Um, So, yeah, this study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change. It says extreme weather like flooding, heatwaves, and drought have made about 58% of known infectious diseases even worse. We’re talking about things like malaria, cholera, and anthrax, which is a disease and a lil powder, which is great. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, the anthrax one throws me off. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah, I didn’t see that coming. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I have more questions about that later. But um can you tell us a little bit about the science of this? Like, what’s the relationship between infectious diseases and climate change? 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. So extreme weather can create the conditions in which bacteria and viruses can thrive. It’s kind of like, you know, you have a dirty house. It’s more likely that, you know, you can get visitors, you can get molds and things that build up, and those things can make you sick. Standing water is basically a playground for all sorts of unsanitary stuff. Climate disasters can also wreak havoc on health care infrastructure and then make it harder to quarantine sick people or to treat sick people and make it easier to infect healthy people. So one example from a lead author of the study, Camilo Mora, says that floods in his home in Colombia created a breeding ground for mosquitoes. And then he contracted a virus known as chikungunya from a bite, which then left him with joint pains years later. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Oh, man, this makes a lot of sense now that you explain it. A lot of terrible sense. So another factor that they talk about, like involves climate change and wildlife habitats. Can you talk to us more about that? That was something I had also not thought of. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. So the study says that humans encroaching onto wild areas can lead to outbreaks like the Ebola outbreak that we saw years ago and Lyme disease. And that’s not necessarily climate change. That’s more just like human expansion and poor development, which like those sort of solutions go hand in hand with climate change, just environmental destruction. Beyond that, it also warned about melting ice and thawing permafrost that exposed once frozen pathogens. And that is really dangerous. Trust me, you do not want to find out what sorts of prehistoric viruses are lurking out there in the permafrost. Because our human bodies, we’re not about that life. It’s honestly one of the things that scares me the most about climate change. Like when coronavirus became a global pandemic it really kind of scared me because as a climate person and somebody who’s been working on this for a while, I’ve been expecting pandemics like, you know, even within my own lifetime. But I wasn’t expecting a pandemic that was completely unrelated to climate change. I was like, well, damn, this is early. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s terrifying. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: You know, you’re not going to be able to sleep tonight, so you might as well google anthrax. Uh.

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I will. Don’t worry. [laughter] That sounds right up my alley of late night Googles. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. Uh. So we’ll link to that study in our show notes so you can read more. And that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s get to some headlines. 

 

[sung] Headlines. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Some updates on the war in Ukraine, shelling damaged a nuclear power plant in the Russian occupied region of Zaporizhzhia over the weekend. Russia and Ukraine each blamed each other for the attack. But either way, the move was cause for international concern, given that the plant is home to the largest nuclear reactor in Europe. And the attack destroyed several buildings in the area. The plant is damaged but still in operation. And United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said on Monday that international inspectors should be allowed to visit the embattled site and survey the damage. But that’s not the only news to come out of Zaporizhzhia. Russian authorities there are now officially on track to host a referendum on whether the region should be annexed. The leader of the Russian occupied region signed a decree yesterday that basically lays the groundwork for the election. And the move comes one month after the US said that Moscow was planning to do this in an effort to seize more Ukrainian land. Meanwhile, the U.S. just pledged another billion dollars worth of military aid to Ukraine. The Pentagon said yesterday that the new aid package is the largest shipment of weapons it’s sent since the start of the war. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Woof, there’s a lot in there, but the nuclear news really is kind of scary. Speaking of nuclear, negotiators are one step closer to reviving the Iran nuclear deal. Indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran, it concluded in Vienna yesterday and the final draft of an agreement was sent to Washington, D.C. and Iran’s capital, Tehran. To refresh your memory, former President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the original deal back in 2018, and Iran has since expanded its nuclear program. This new proposal introduced by the European Union now awaits a decision from both countries. But as of now, it remains unclear whether Tehran will accept the deal. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: The January 6th committee has received a bunch of Alex Jones’s texts, which presumably have all capital letters and no punctuation, and not in a way that is fun. I want to see them, but I also don’t, you know. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: [laughter] I really want to see them. I love chaos. [laughing]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I know they have to be the most chaotic thing that we’ve read and that’s saying a lot over the last couple of years. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: This comes after the conspiracy theorist’s lawyers accidentally sent two years worth of text to the opposing legal team in the case brought by two Sandy Hook families. That mistake made the messages fair game for others looking into Jones’s misdeeds. In a bold, last ditch effort, his lawyers asked a judge if these texts could be destroyed instead of being sent to Capitol Hill. But the judge said, quote, “I’m not standing between you and Congress. That is not my job. I’m not going to do that.” 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: This is what patriotism looks like. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Whoo! [laughter] It is very bold to say, like, can you destroy them? Like, why don’t you just say, like, don’t send them. It’s like there’s got to be some middle ground. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Basically asking for a favor. And I’ll just have, you know, Alex Jones on his show like basically burned the judge in effigy, like shown images of the judge on fire. And now he’s going to ask for a solid. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: A very bold move. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yeah. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: We can say that about Alex Jones. He’s bold. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Only a white dude would be that bold. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: And speaking of evidence that Republicans can’t make disappear, there’s finally some hard evidence of Trump’s long rumored bathroom based method of document disposal. Yes, that’s the word I just said. New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman first claimed in February that Trump had a habit of illegally flushing Oval Office papers down the toilet. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Mmm. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: A habit. [laugh] And yesterday, for the first time ever, Axios published pictures Haberman obtained of toilets containing notes with Trump’s handwriting. Meanwhile, Trump himself said that FBI agents raided Mar-a-Lago yesterday and broke open his safe. A source for The New York Times said agents were searching for classified documents the former president brought with him to Florida after he left the White House. This man was allowed in the White House. Our thoughts and prayers are with the agents if they had to check the toilets. And, you know, if you’re hearing these words and they sound absurd to you, I want you to know that I said them out loud. They did it. I still haven’t processed them. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: It’s like I’m watching myself say these things. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I had low expectations after Election Day in 2016. I don’t think I saw pictures of White House toilets coming. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Oh. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: My expectations were not low enough. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. I thought that man was going to launch us into nuclear war on day one. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: So this is better. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Day one. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It’s true. It’s true. [laughter] Things could be worse, but they could also be a little bit classier. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: No class. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It could be classier. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: No class. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: No class, none. Some lucky travelers in Australia could soon have their luggage misplaced by a vice president of business affairs because the airline Qantas has asked senior executives to fill in as baggage handlers as the company pushes through a staffing shortage. At least 100 senior staffers have been offered the opportunity, which would last three months and would release them from their normal responsibilities of brainstorming new ways to make chairs uncomfortable or whatever else airline executives do. This unauthorized reboot of undercover bosses comes after Qantas cut 20% of its workforce at the height of the pandemic. I love this idea and I think every company, senior staffers should have to spend a couple of months in the trenches. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm hmm, mm hmm. And they should trade salaries, too. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: They should trade salaries. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: And they should film it. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: They should film it. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Put this on TV, you cowards. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yes, truly. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Um, [laughing] New data shows that most parents with children under the age of five have not gotten their kids vaccinated for COVID. This report comes just one month after the CDC recommended that kids between six months and four years old get the shot. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, only about 4 to 5% of the age group has gotten at least one dose of the vaccine. Health officials say that many parents are hesitant because of how new the vaccine is for kids, and others could be holding off because their kid was recently infected with COVID. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Seven years ago, Lin-Manuel Miranda turned the world on its head by asking the question, what if the founding fathers rapped? [laughter] Now, a church in Texas, oh, boy, has taken things one step further by asking, what if the founding fathers rapped about being Christian? 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Now, who else is being brave enough to answer these questions? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Nobody. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Yup. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I didn’t even know to ask these questions, much less answer them. The Door Church in McAllen, Texas, is facing criticism for its unsanctioned staging of Hamilton, which added new biblical references to the musical. For example, after Hamilton asked himself, what is a legacy?And the Door Church’s version, instead of singing, it’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see. He says this: 

 

[clip of castmember of unsanctioned version of Hamilton] It’s knowing you repented and accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ that sets men free. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: I feel like that loses the rhythm a little bit. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I was going to ask, like what’s the syllable like match up here? Because it doesn’t feel great. Maybe there’s nothing so bad about taking liberties with an educational rap. But what is bad is the sermon that followed at least one performance of this play, which compared being gay to being addicted to drugs and alcohol. As of this weekend, a spokesman for Hamilton had sent the church a cease and desist. I feel like it’s worth pointing out that neither being gay nor being addicted to drugs and alcohol is a moral failing. But I guarantee you that is not the comparison that the two were making. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: No, what I want to know is, was there dancing? 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Oh, for sure. And those are the headlines. Two more things before we go. It’s been a busy week in the world of sports and Takeline is discussing it all. First host Jason Concepcion talks to Myles Simmons, a reporter with NBC Sports and pro football talk about the sexual misconduct allegations against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. Keep updated on all sports news by listening to Takeline every Tuesday. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. I love Takeline and I’m not even into sports so highly recommend. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: I’m going to subscribe in time for football season so I can call my mom and sound like I know what I’m talking about. It will really freak her out after all these years. [laugh]

 

Josie Duffy Rice: It’s super good. It’s super fun and funny and you will learn a lot. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Every time I call her, I’m like, so they did a Hail Mary, right? And like half the time I’m right and half the time I’m wrong. Um, also subscribe to Hot Take. Just head to HotTakePod.com to sign up for our newsletter. And you can sign up for our podcast of course, wherever you get your podcasts. We’ve got a new episode of the podcast up from last week that goes into even more detail about the Inflation Reduction Act. And we’re recording yet another one for this week that goes into how the passage of the bill went. We’ll have links to all that in our show notes. [music break] That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, buy a paper shredder like the rest of us, and tell your friends to listen. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading and not just toilet notes like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. So check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: I’m Mary Annaïse Hegler. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 

 

[spoken together] And careful with our bags Qantas execs! 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Everybody I knows flights getting delayed, is getting canceled. They’re getting like rerouted to like– 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Some whole other ass country. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: I feel like it’s probably made worse by having some guy who’s not a baggage handler, like, figure out where your bag goes, but — 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mmmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: –also makes it more interesting. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: Mm hmm. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: You know. 

 

Mary Annaïse Heglar: I hadn’t even thought about that part. Like, they’re probably going to be so bad at those jobs. Oh, my God. 

 

Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, truly. [music break] What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto, are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.