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Attorney for man accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery says ‘this is not just another act of violent racism’

Demonstrators at a May 8 rally to protest the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Ga. (John Bazemore/AP)

MACON, Ga. — Attorneys for one of the two men charged in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery said Friday that national interest in the case has been fueled by an incomplete narrative, adding that they have gathered evidence that will tell a different story inside a courtroom.

The announcement from Gregory McMichael’s attorneys comes more than a week after he and his son, Travis McMichael, were arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault in Arbery’s killing — 74 days after Arbery was fatally shot in the coastal city of Brunswick. Arbery’s family argues that the 25-year-old black man was simply out for a jog Feb. 23 when he was pursued by the McMichaels, who were armed. Gregory McMichael told police he and his son believed Arbery was involved in nearby burglaries.

Frank and Laura Hogue, the attorneys representing the elder McMichael, declined to provide details about the additional evidence — including witnesses, documents and videos — that they have reviewed. But they said it will dispel comparisons between Arbery’s killing and other instances of black men being gunned down by white men that many have attributed to racial bias in the United States.

“This case is not that story,” said Frank Hogue, who repeatedly called Arbery’s death a tragedy. “And when we bring it out in the proper venue ⁠ — a court of law ⁠ — at the proper time, the truth will reveal this is not just another act of violent racism.”

The sentiments expressed Friday by Gregory McMichael’s attorneys mirror statements from the attorneys representing Travis McMichael. On Wednesday, Robert Rubin and Jason B. Sheffield wrote that they had also uncovered evidence that would exonerate their client, who they say has been “vilified before his voice could even be heard.”

“In a case such as this that is already highly publicized, it is imperative that no one rush to judgment, and to allow the legal process to run its course,” Rubin wrote in a statement. Attorneys for Gregory McMichael say that while they are in contact with Rubin and Sheffield, the defense teams are working separately to defend their clients.

This video appears to show the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, on Feb. 23, 2020. in Brunswick, Ga. (Video: Obtained by The Washington Post)

The statements from both McMichaels’ attorneys come amid debate over what Arbery was doing in the moments before his death. While relatives say he was out jogging that day, prosecutors say he was in a building he was not authorized to be in, later identified as a home under construction. George E. Barnhill, one of two prosecutors who have recused themselves in the case, argued that the McMichaels were justified in their actions under Georgia’s citizen’s-arrest and self-defense laws because they thought Arbery was a burglary suspect.

In response to the comments from Travis McMichael’s attorneys, lawyers who are representing Arbery’s mother said it was actually the McMichaels who jumped to conclusions on Feb. 23.

“We agree with the attorneys for Travis McMichael that the justice system affords all citizens the presumption of innocence and that there shouldn’t be a rush to judgment or stereotyping,” wrote attorneys Lee Merritt, Benjamin Crump and L. Chris Stewart. “We only wish that their client, Travis McMichael, had provided that same presumption of innocence to Ahmaud Arbery before chasing and killing him.”

The case has been heavily scrutinized as new developments have emerged in recent days. Larry English, the man who owns the home under construction, said he had installed motion-activated cameras to oversee the property. On Wednesday, his attorney released a statement indicating that the cameras had captured people inside the home on several occasions beginning in October, though she said nothing was ever stolen or damaged.

The Washington Post on Thursday reported that Gregory McMichael — a former police detective and district attorney’s office investigator in Brunswick — was stripped of his law enforcement certification and power to arrest a year before Arbery’s killing. McMichael’s certification was suspended in February 2019 after repeated failures to complete required training, according to documents from the Brunswick Judicial Circuit district attorney’s office that were acquired by The Post.

The documents included a warning in 2014 that McMichael had neglected to finish mandatory firearms and use-of-force courses over a number of years.

McMichael’s attorneys on Friday declined to answer questions about whether he was properly certified to work in the district attorney’s office years ago, and they remained mum on other aspects of the case.

“Those will all be issues that will have to be addressed later on,” Laura Hogue said.

The McMichaels are being held without bond in the Glynn County jail. The attorneys for both men say they are trying to schedule preliminary hearings for their clients as soon as possible. Franklin and Laura Hogue said they also plan to petition the court to set bail.

“Greg McMichael did not commit murder,” Frank Hogue said Friday. “Greg McMichael is not a party to the crime of murder. This is not some sort of hate crime fueled by racism. It remains the case, however, that a young African American man has lost his life to violence. That is tragic.”

Also on Friday, an attorney for English, the man who owns the home under construction that Arbery entered moments before his death, released additional videos that she said came from surveillance cameras at the home, showing what appear to be children, a couple and Arbery entering the home on various occasions.

English’s attorney, Elizabeth Graddy, said in a statement that it’s possible that Arbery had been coming on to the property for drinking water. She noted that there were water sources in the front and back of the house and that in one of the clips, the sound of running water can be heard.

Attorneys for Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, have confirmed that he was captured in a video at the property on the day he was killed, but it remains unclear whether Arbery appears in other video clips. The attorneys wrote that “it is the homeowner’s opinion, after watching Mr. Arbery’s movements on the video, that he briefly stopped into the home under construction to get a drink of water from the working sinks.”

They also noted that the outcome for Arbery was much different than the others seen entering the structure on surveillance cameras.

“There were frequently people on the construction site both day and night,” Cooper-Jones’s attorneys wrote. “Ahmaud Arbery seems to be the only one who was presumed to be a criminal and ultimately the only one murdered based on that assumption.”

Brice-Saddler reported from Washington. Hannah Knowles in Washington contributed to this report.

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