Witnesses testify to racist remarks made by Ahmaud Abery's killers

After Friday's hearings, the prosecution and defense had both withdrawn their cases. Closing arguments will be held Monday in the federal hate-crime trial of the three men convicted in Arbery’s murder.

Witnesses testify to racist remarks made by Ahmaud Abery's killers

The federal hate crime trial of three white men convicted for killing Ahmaud Arkary, a Black man, was over before the prosecution and defense rested their cases. On Friday, several witnesses testified about the racist and discriminatory comments and rants made by two of the men.

Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael were father and son and chased Arbery (25), through their coastal Georgia neighborhood in trucks. They spotted him running past their homes in February 2020. Travis McMichael shot Arbery with a shotgun after the three men had cornered him.

The federal hate crime trial, which seeks to prove that the men were motivated by racial bias, will be held in November. Prosecutors are focusing on building the foundation necessary to prove that Arbery's murder was caused by prejudices that the men held about Black people. This motive was largely ignored by prosecutors during the state trial.

An FBI analyst, who had looked through the messages and posts on social media from the men earlier in the week, testified to the racism and views they shared over the years.

Prosecutors called witnesses Friday who had spoken with McMichaels and expressed racial bias, used slurs, and made derogatory comments to discuss Black people.

Kim Ballesteros, who was a former neighbor to the McMichaels families and had lived across from them for many years, testified that she met Greg McMichael on one occasion after moving from the neighborhood. They discussed their experiences with tenants.

Ballesteros testified in court that Greg McMichael called a Black woman who was behind on her rent "a big fat, Black woman". He also said that he often called her "the walrus" as the woman was "big, and Black."

Ballesteros stated that the conversation made her feel uneasy. But, she claimed Greg McMichael went even further and claimed that he had disconnected the woman’s air conditioner because she didn’t pay her rent on the due date.

Greg McMichael testified that "you should've seen her big Black ans come with the rent check," Ballesteros testified.

Travis McMichael was also represented by his former boss.

Joe Mandala was a coworker with McMichael's younger brother at a small Georgia naval station at the time of Arbery’s murder. They worked together on small boats. He stated that Travis McMichael had openly confessed to shooting Arbery. He also said that he was fine after the murder, despite having taken two days off.

Mandala testified that Travis McMichael claimed that he believed Arbery was breaking into homes, and that he had been attacked.

Mandala stated that he was shocked by the discovery of video footage of McMichael's murder months later. He also expressed surprise that McMichael hadn't been arrested. He shared the video with his colleagues and testified that he had reported the incident to his superiors to get McMichael's security passes and access into the facility. This took several days without any arrest.

Mandala stated, "Watching it was upsetting, and what happened was upsetting."

The prosecution called Travis McMichael, a former colleague during his time with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Kristie Ronquille who is still serving in the maritime force told the jury that Travis McMichael called her "an N word lover" because she had dated a Black man in 2011 when she was in Pascagoula (Mississippi).

Ronquille started to weep while she was testifying, telling the prosecutors that it was the first occasion she had ever heard anything like that. She claimed Travis McMichael made sexual jokes about her relationship history and Black men.

She stated that she was afraid of reporting it because she was "still young" and didn’t know what resources were available and Travis McMichael was her superior.

Amy Lee Copeland is Travis McMichael’s defense attorney. She noted that Ronquille told the FBI she was only "90%" certain that he used the racist slur. He had also called him "crazy" during the interview and used profanity to describe himself.

However, Copeland was unable provide a recording of or transcript of the exchange to the FBI.

Carol Sears was the last witness called by the prosecution. She met Greg McMichael at a 2015 court hearing in Glynn County. The elder McMichael had been an investigator there until 2019.

Sears, a New York-based real estate agent, and her daughter traveled to Georgia to see a judge for the man who killed her husband in a drunken driving incident years before.

Sears stated that she once expressed sadness at the death of Julian Bond, a civil rights activist. Sears said that she remembers calling it "terrible", while Greg McMichael drove Sears and her daughter to the airport.

"Terrible? "I wish that guy would have been in the ground years back," Greg McMichael replied, Sears testified. "All these Blacks create trouble. They should all die, I wish.

Sears claimed that McMichael went on an anti Black tirade for several more minutes, which carried "meannesses and ugliness over a whole race" Both she and her daughter were stunned into silence and felt afraid.

The prosecution was then dismissed and Greg McMichael's defense called one witness. Evelyn Cofer was a long-time Satilla Shores resident who testified that she saw a white male under a bridge nearby, suspected of breaking into homes.

McMichael had called police previously about the man. However, the prosecution said McMichael called the non-emergency number for police and pursued the matter without urgency. He did not respond the same way as Arbery who ran past his house.

After Cofer's testimony, the defense was dismissed. Bryan and Travis McMichael's attorneys did not call witnesses.

Closing arguments will be held on Monday.


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