Prosecutors Seek to Include Racist Facebook Posts, Texts By Ahmaud Arbery’s Killers in Trial

The North Star has dropped its paywall during this COVID-19 crisis so that pertinent information and analysis is available to everyone during this time. This is only possible because of the generous support of our members. We rely on these funds to pay our staff to continue to provide high-quality content. If you are able to support, we invite you to do so here.

State prosecutors in the Ahmaud Arbery case want racist social media posts and cell phone texts admitted as evidence in the trial against the three white supremacists charged with murdering Arbery. Prosecutors said in a recent court filing in Glynn County that the racist messages will be “proof of motive.”

The state hopes to include evidence by the three white men who hunted Arbery down and killed him in broad daylight.

Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was jogging on the outskirts of Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23. He was chased down by three white men — Greg McMichael, his son, Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan — before he was shot three times and killed.

The McMichaels and Bryan were indicted on malice and felony murder charges after video of the horrific murder emerged in May. The three men pleaded not guilty and remain in jail.

Travis, who fatally shot Arbery, sent a racist text message on March 16, 2019, and added two racist posts to his Facebook in June and August 2019. The notice of intent to use evidence also includes “racial” Facebook posts by Greg and “racial” text messages found on Bryan’s phone, ABC News reported.

During a July bond hearing, prosecutor Jesse Evans revealed that Bryan repeatedly used the n-word in text messages. Those messages, which Evans said included “a ton of filth,” are the same messages that prosecutors want to use as evidence.

Prosecutors requested a court hearing about this evidence before the start of the trial.

The prosecution also asked Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley to prohibit the defense from including “bad character” evidence, such as past convictions, his mental health history, or prior encounters with police, about Arbery at trial, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

In that court motion, prosecutors said bad character evidence against Arbery is “irrelevant and inadmissible as to the issues in this case, including the issues of self-defense.”

Modern Day Lynching

Arbery was merely jogging when the McMichaels and Bryan chased him down, struck him with a car and shot him to death, prosecutors say. However, defense attorneys for the McMichaels claim the two men chased Arbery because they thought he was stealing from a house under construction. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that police said they did not find anything on Arbery that he may have stolen.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Richard Dial previously testified that Bryan told detectives that he heard Travis say “f–king n-word” as he stood over Arbery as he died. Travis’ lawyers denied that their client said anything like that.

The McMichaels’ defense claims that the father-son duo did not chase Arbery down because he was Black.

Arbery’s Mother Says Fundraising Efforts Take Advantage of Son’s Death

Arbery’s death, along with the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, sparked massive nationwide protests. Initial efforts to memorialize Arbery and his love of running have now turned into a registered trademark, a foundation and a GoFundMe account.

Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, told CNN that these efforts are being used to exploit his death.

“Money cannot replace what I have lost and the fight for justice does not come without cost,” Cooper-Jones said to CNN. “I was not begging for money and I was prepared to fight for my son either way. I have always worked for what I wanted.”

Memorials began with the Facebook page, “I Run With Maud,” which was managed by Arbery’s childhood friend Akeem Baker. The page encouraged followers to demand justice and inspired many to dedicate 2.23-mile – to memorialize the date Arbery was killed – fundraising runs to Arbery.

While she initially supported the Facebook page, Cooper-Jones now feels it’s a “business opportunity” instead of a page getting justice for her son. In a lengthy post on Facebook, Cooper-Jones said that she has requested access to the page as an administrator by has been denied.

“I Run With Maud” was eventually rebranded as “The 2:23 Foundation,” and was registered as a non-profit organization in Georgia. It’s being run by Jason Vaughn, Arbery’s former high school football coach. Cooper-Jones said Vaughn and her son did not have a close relationship, CNN reported.

Vaughn’s brother, John C. Richards, and Baker also applied to register “I Run With Maud” as a trademark. Cooper-Jones and her attorney S. Lee Merritt plan to dispute the registration of the trademark application, which was conditionally approved.

“We shouldn’t be trying to add more grief, stress to a mom who recently lost her son. And it’s a shame that these people from her community are making her go through these hoops,” Merritt told CNN.

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 Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.