BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The three Glynn County men accused in the murder of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery appeared via video conference Friday at an arraignment hearing, pleading not guilty to all charges. During a hearing on a motion to grant bond following the arraignments, it came out that one of the defendants is under federal investigation for sex crimes, according to News 6 sister station WJXT.
Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory, are accused in the shooting of Arbery as he jogged through their neighborhood in late February. William “Roddie” Bryan recorded the fatal shooting on his cellphone. All three were formally charged in connection with the case Friday morning and each entered not guilty pleas.
The three men were arrested more than 70 days after the shooting of Arbery after Bryan’s cellphone video of the incident went viral. What was seen in the video conflicted with what was in the police report on the shooting.
After the arraignment hearing, the Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley heard motions filed by Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, including asking that his client be released on bond pending trial.
“Keeping him in jail isn’t accomplishing anything,” Gough said prior to entering court Friday. “Roddie is struggling in there. He’s not used to being in jail. He lost his house, his car, his job and everything, everything he has left in the world is in storage. If he can get back out, he can reclaim his life.”
During witness testimony in on the bond motion, the prosecutor revealed that Bryan is under investigation for sex crimes.
“There are texts to support the DOJ’s investigation,” Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans said. “I can confirm as of yesterday, the GBI has opened an additional parallel investigation into sex crimes that stemmed from this. This now also heightens the risk of flight, as well.”
Walmsley denied the motion to grand Bryan bail and a second motion requesting a gag order in the case.
Gough also argued a motion requesting that District Attorney Joyette Holmes be removed from the case, calling into question the way she was chosen. That motion was denied.
The circumstances of the case are unique in that prosecutors did not file criminal charges against the McMichaels and Bryan for more than 74 days, WJXT reports.
Arbery’s lawyers accuse the Brunswick district attorney and Waycross district attorney of trying to protect the McMichaels because they have ties to law enforcement. However, when Georgia state investigators took over they found enough evidence within 36 hours to file charges.
After the hearing, Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, said he was relieved all three men remain in jail pending their trial.
“My son actually ran for his life but Williams Bryan did not allow my son to go home,” Cooper-Johns said.
While it wasn’t a formal motion, during the proceedings Gough objected to the Arbery’s lawyer, S. Lee Merritt, wearing a mask in the courtroom that bears the words “George Floyd.” While Judge Walmsley said he had not noticed the mask and didn’t want to rule on the legality of wearing it, he did ask that people wear content-neutral masks in court and that “no political statements should be made.”