Text messages with racial slurs presented during bond hearing for suspects in Arbery case

Text messages with racial slurs presented during bond hearing for suspects in Arbery case
Ahmaud Arbery (Source: WMC)

GLYNN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The father and son charged in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery appeared via video before a judge for a bond hearing Thursday. The hearing will continue Friday at 10 a.m.

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Gregory and Travis McMichael are two of three suspects charged in Arbery’s death in February in Glynn County. Arbery was jogging when Greg and Travis McMichael chased him down in their truck and shot and killed Arbery.

The defense team for Travis spent more than three hours focusing on his character, calling five witnesses to the stand.

This combination of images taken Thursday, May 7, 2020, and provided by the Glynn County Detention Center, in Georgia, shows Gregory McMichael, left, and his son Travis McMichael. The two have been charged with murder in the February shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, whom they had pursued in a truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood.
This combination of images taken Thursday, May 7, 2020, and provided by the Glynn County Detention Center, in Georgia, shows Gregory McMichael, left, and his son Travis McMichael. The two have been charged with murder in the February shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, whom they had pursued in a truck after spotting him running in their neighborhood. (Source: Glynn County Detention Center via AP)

The father and son charged in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery appeared via video before a judge for a bond hearing Thursday. The hearing will continue Friday at 10 a.m.

Gregory and Travis McMichael are two of three suspects charged in Arbery’s death in February in Glynn County. Arbery was jogging when Greg and Travis McMichael chased him down in their truck and shot and killed Arbery.

The defense team for Travis spent more than three hours focusing on his character, calling five witnesses to the stand.

One of those witnesses was his mother, the rest were close, long-time friends of Travis.

The defense brought up, through the witnesses, his close relationship with his son, several instances where he saved people’s lives while as a lifeguard and a US Coast Guardsman, and how Travis is respected by those who know him. Each witness testified that Travis would not run, if granted bond and they would be willing to ensure he appears in court.

During cross-examination of one of the witnesses, a friend of Travis, the prosecution presented new evidence regarding a text message exchange between Travis and the witness, which included a racial slur.

Travis’s friend said the texts were only in reference to an animal and the defense also said the texts were jokes.

WARNING: This video from the hearing includes the text exchange, which has offensive language.

“Shooting a crackhead coon with gold teeth and a High Point 45. Do you remember that text exchange?”

“No, sir. I don’t”

“You actually responded to it. Something about Newport’s and a 40.”

The witness is then shown a printed copy of the text messages.

“He was referring to a raccoon.”

“A raccoon? With gold teeth and a High Point 45?”

“Being facetious.”

“To which you responded, ‘this raccoon needed Newport cigarettes?’”

“Yes.”

This text exchange was in November of 2019 and Arbery’s death was in February of 2020.

Witnesses also testified they did not ever know Travis to be a racist person, even saying he felt “remorseful” after the death of Arbery.

“He told me that he wishes it never happened like that, that he would never want that to happen. He prayed for Ahmaud’s mother and family daily,” said Ashley Langford, a friend of Travis.

Gregory McMichael’s defense team focused on his health.

We have heard from his wife and even his cardiologist about Greg’s declining health. His wife shared that Greg has had heart attacks and strokes in the past. She also says her husband has lost weight while locked up.

The defense asked Greg’s cardiologist if he had any concerns with not seeing his patient, which he said yes. Prosecution argued that complications from a coronary disease can happen both inside and outside a jail and that the doctor testifying does not know that Greg’s care in jail is insufficient.

“You’re talking about your past care of Greg McMichael. You don’t know what his current standard of care is?”

“Right.”

"It could very well be that he’s seeing doctors at a facility here in Glynn County at the jail. "

“Yes, I’m not aware of his care.”

“And this event that you’re talking about, that can happen whether you’re in custody or out of custody.”

“That’s right.”

Like Travis McMichael, Greg’s defense team also brought up Greg’s character through the witnesses - all of them saying he is a respectable person who likes to help people.

Ahmaud Arbery’s parents spoke, urging the court to not release the McMichaels.

Wanda Jones Cooper referenced how her son was jogging on a path he frequented, when he was shot.

“No matter how fast he ran or how quickly he turned, these men refused to let him go home. These men shouldn’t be allowed to go home,” Cooper said.

The killing gained national attention when the video of the shooting was released. The man who took the video, William “Roddie” Bryan is also facing charges. Bryan’s attorney has filed a “speedy trial” motion. And according to the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office, they have until March of 2022 to try the case.

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