A federal jury found shooter Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan, who is white, guilty of killing Arbery, who is Black, in February. That was the first federal hate crimes conviction ever in Georgia.
The men are already sentenced to life on state charges for the 2020 murder. The recommended federal sentence is a life term on top of the state charges.
11Alive News legal analyst Page Pate believes the trio will likely spend the rest of their lives in prison.
“You're looking at potentially very, very lengthy sentences," Pate said. “They're not going to a Martha Stewart type camp, even if they're allowed to go to federal prison.”
Travis and Gregory McMichaels want to stay in federal prison. Their lawyer said they don't want to go to state prison because they're afraid they'll be killed.
"The state prisons in Georgia are horrible, especially right now. In fact, many of them are subject to a federal Department of Justice investigation as as to the conditions of confinement," Pate said. “You've got severe staff shortages. You have violence. Inmate on inmate attacks, inmate on guard attacks. You even have guard on inmate attacks.”
Pate said it's unusual for inmate deaths to happen in state prison, but he does believe the three men could be targets. Arbery's family said they want the men to go state prison for chasing Ahmaud down and killing him in a Brunswick neighborhood when he went for a jog in February 2020.
“That's given both the nature of the crime, their convictions and all of the evidence that we heard during the trials, the racial hatred, the language and not to mention what actually happened to Ahmaud Arbery," Pate said.
It's unlikely they won't be transferred to state prison after Monday's federal sentencing, according to Pate.
“What happens in a situation like this when someone's first been charged in state court and then they have federal charges brought against them is that the state loans them to federal court until their federal case is finished and then they take them back," Pate said.
Pate believes federal prosecutors want to communicate that actions like the McMichaels' and Bryan's won't be tolerated.
“I think the message that this sends is that this current Department of Justice is very focused on prosecuting hate crimes, even if people have been prosecuted previously in the state system," Pate said.
The McMichaels were not given the possibility of parole on their state sentence.
"Bryan has the opportunity to seek parole in the state system. If he's given a life sentence in federal court, though, won't matter because there is no parole in the federal system," Pate said,
Pate thinks the only way the men won't spend their lives in prison is if they win an appeal, which he expects their lawyers to do immediately after sentencing. But he believes it's unlikely an appeal will be successful unless there are legal errors.