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One of the men who chased down and killed Ahmaud Arbery attempted to send an encoded message from jail to a man who would later testify on his behalf as a character witness.
Reports of the encoded message come just days after Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, were denied bond. The McMichaels were charged with malice murder after they pursued 25-year-old Arbery as he jogged in a Brunswick, Georgia, neighborhood on Feb. 23 and shot him to death.
Records reveal that Gregory attempted to send a postcard on June 25 with an indecipherable code that was flagged by a jail administrator. The administrator reportedly told FBI investigators that the note contained “letters and symbols that made no sense,” News 4 Jax reported.
The administrator made a copy of the postcard and brought it to the jail’s major, who told her that the letter “was against the mail policy” because individuals in detention cannot send encoded messages. News 4 Jax reported that the message was addressed to Zach Langford, who testified as a character witness months later at the McMichaels’ bond hearing.
Gregory’s attorney, Frank Hogue, denied his client had tried to send an encoded message and instead said it was merely gibberish “that have no meaning and in no way constitute a code with any decipherable message.”
Hogue said that the defense team told the U.S. Attorney’s Office that his client sent the message to Langford, “whom he thought would find it amusing.” He added: “We know that any efforts that they have made to yet made to decipher something that is indecipherable will lead them to abandon the postcard as meaningless nonsense.”
The encoded postcard wasn’t the only piece of mail from the elder McMichael that was flagged, News 4 Jax reported. Jail administrators told investigators from the FBI and Justice Department that another postcard addressed to Travis from his mother also sent up a red flag.
The postcard, which was returned over its use of initials instead of a full name, was “suspicious because the handwriting did not resemble the handwriting [administrators] were familiar with.” Administrators told FBI investigators that the writing on the postcard was not from a friend or Travis’ mother.
“You could tell that it was from the father…cause he has very distinctive handwriting,” records cited by News 4 Jax said.
Hogue argued his client had not seen the jail handbook when he mailed out the postcard.
McMichaels Denied Bond
News 4 Jax’s report of the encoded messages came out less than a week after a judge denied bond for Gregory and Travis McMichael. Over the course of two days, Judge Timothy R. Walmsley heard testimony from character witnesses attempting to vouch for the pair, as well as evidence from prosecutors who argued the two should not be released on bond.
Prosecutors provided a flash drive with 21 folders on it and two large binders with social media posts and messages that they say prove the McMichaels are racists, The Washington Post reported.
Prosecutor Jesse Evans questioned Langford — a childhood friend of Travis — about a text message Travis had sent him that used a racist slur for Black people when talking about a “crackhead…with gold teeth.” Langford initially claimed he did not recall the message but later said his friend was “referring to a raccoon” when faced with the transcript of the message, according to The Associated Press.
Langford also claimed he did not recall a photo that he posted to Facebook to which Travis replied, “Sayonara,” along with an offensive word for Asians and an expletive, the AP reported.
Allegations of the McMichaels’ racist views were first substantiated when 51-year-old William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who reportedly recorded the shooting on his phone, told investigators Travis used the N-word after fatally shooting Arbery three times. Bryan was later charged with felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
The McMichaels defense attorneys deny their clients are racists or that there were racist motives behind the deadly shooting. Gregory, a retired district attorney investigator, told police that they armed themselves and pursued Arbery because they believed he was a burglar.
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, asked the judge to deny the pair bond because they believe they did no wrong. “These men are proud of what they have done,” she said. “They want to go home because they think in their selfish minds that they are the good guys.”
Cooper-Jones later told reporters that she believed Travis was not remorseful. “Ahmaud wasn’t allowed to go home,” she said. “So them going home would be totally unfair.”
On Nov. 13, Judge Walmsley denied bond for the two men, saying the court had concerns about the McMichaels, who “appeared to take the law into their own hands,” according to The Washington Post.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.