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Travis McMichael withdraws guilty plea, will proceed to federal hate crimes trial

Now both McMichaels have withdrawn their guilty pleas.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Travis McMichael followed his father Friday in withdrawing a guilty plea in the federal hate crimes trial they are set to face in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

In a brief federal court appearance, McMichael and his attorney said they would withdraw the guilty plea that was submitted earlier this week as part of a plea deal that was rejected by a judge.

On Thursday, Gregory McMichael first withdrew his guilty plea.

RELATED: Greg McMichael rescinds guilty plea in Arbery death. Here's when his federal hate crime trial begins

McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, had planned to enter guilty pleas in court on Monday when a judge rejected the terms of a plea deal that was met with stiff objections by Arbery’s parents. 

The McMichaels and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, were convicted of Arbery's murder in November. 

Court records show jury selection in the federal trial will begin Monday. 

Arbery's mother had said she felt betrayed after the plea deal between the McMichaels and Department of Justice had emerged, which would have allowed the court to impose a 30-year prison sentence. 

The McMichaels would have been able to serve concurrently to their life without parole sentences in the murder case. 

The plea would also would have dismissed the indictment's other charges and allowed them to serve their federal sentences before their state sentences - meaning the father and son would have spent the first 30 years of their life sentences in federal prison, rather than state prison where conditions are tougher.

Wanda Cooper Jones, Arbery's mother, was not in support of the proposed pleas.

"Granting these men their preferred conditions of confinement will defeat me. It give them one last chance to spit in my face after murdering my son," she said. "No one has asked me for my consent until this moment. Your honor, I’m not consenting. The state of Georgia already gave them exactly what they deserve. Please leave it that way."

The five-count federal hate crimes indictment alleges the three men "did willfully by force...interfere with Ahmaud Arbery, an African American man, because of Arbery’s race and color," which "resulted in the death" of Arbery” in counts one and two. Count three accused both the McMichaels and Bryan of attempted kidnapping, and counts four and five assert the father and son used a gun during a crime of violence.

Following their conviction, the McMichaels and Bryan were all sentenced to life in prison under Georgia mandatory sentencing guidelines, with only Bryan being given the chance of parole.

A jury found the three had committed murder when they chased Arbery down as he ran through the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Feb. 2020, eventually accosting him, with Travis McMichael shooting and killing him in a struggle for McMichael's shotgun. 

When video emerged of the murder, it sparked widespread outrage and was decried as a vigilante killing equivalent to a lynching. That combined with initial inaction by local prosecutors - one of whom determined it was justified, and another who was later indicted for her handling of the case - drew significant protests and made Arbery one of the enduring symbols of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that swept across the country in 2020.

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