On Thursday, jurors entered day three of testimony in the federal hate crimes trial against the men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery nearly two years ago. Testimony in the case comes on the heels of testimony of racist text messages and social media posts by the three defendants — Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan.
Jurors have heard from several witnesses, including a friend of one of the defendants, Travis McMichael. Derek Thomas attended Brunswick High School with Travis McMichael. “We were good friends,” Thomas testified. Thomas, who is white, briefly testified he’d sent “mostly fun” videos with McMichael “for laughs.”
One video showed a Black man putting a firecracker up his nose and setting it on fire. Thomas confirmed social media evidence revealed McMichael responded, “Would’ve been better had it blown that (expletive) (n-word)’s head off.”
Related coverage:Racist texts, social media posts heard in hate crimes trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers
Previous coverage:‘There’s a kid in the street’: Jurors hear from neighbors in Ahmaud Arbery hate crimes trial
Thomas, who opted to spell the racial slur instead of saying it, said he didn’t expect McMichael to respond in that way and called him to ask why he did. He further testified that McMichael was upset about his stolen gun and believed a Black person took it, referring to them as a racial slur.
In response to another video Thomas sent, which showed a Black person playing a prank, McMichael said, “I’d have killed that (expletive) (n-word).”
During cross-examination, Thomas testified he is close with McMichael’s parents and still checks in on his mom, Leigh McMichael.
“Is it fair to say you love the man, but hate the words he used?” McMichael’s attorney Amy Copeland asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” he testified.
Thursday’s testimony also comes on the heels of evidence read aloud in court in which the defendants expressed racial animus toward Black people.
Witnesses read aloud dozens of racist text messages and social media posts, including memes depicting disdain for Black people, made by the defendants — Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan — dating as far back as 2016 and up to Arbery’s killing. Many of the conversations involved two of the men, Travis McMichael and Bryan, cavalierly using a racial slur when referring to Black people.
Prosecutors focused on social media posts in the Satilla Shores Homeowners Facebook group, which referenced burglaries in the neighborhood, efforts to privatize their streets, and included Travis McMichael’s response to those posts.
In one post, Travis McMichael encourages residents to “arm up” under one post warning about burglaries in the community. Evidence also showed Travis McMichael frequently criticized Black people who committed crimes, often referring to them as savages, monkeys, or other slurs. Gregory McMichael posted memes about vigilantism on his personal Facebook page.
And:Georgia House recognizes Feb. 23 as Ahmaud Arbery Day, family honors two-year anniversary
In an Instagram video, Travis McMichael is posed with a gun next to a “no trespassing” sign and toward the end knocks the sign over and walks into the distance. In another, Gregory McMichael is heard telling Travis that an area behind their home wasn’t technically private.
Bryan frequently used a racial slur when referring to Black people, including his daughter’s boyfriend. Vaughan testified the language in the texts showed Bryan and another person, referred to as “PT,” was upset his daughter was dating a Black man.
None of the social media posts or text messages presented in court referenced Arbery.
Larry English’s home
Also on Thursday, Jurors heard Brunswick homeowner Larry English’s full deposition in which he detailed alleged thefts on his property, specifically from a boat attached to a dock on his house.
English initially believed contractors working on the home stole items from the boat. English said he called 911 each time he saw someone on the property via surveillance video, including a white couple that walked through the home.
In the deposition, English said he installed surveillance cameras and would call 911 when he noticed someone walking onto the property. He asked another neighbor, Diego Perez, to watch out for children on the property to ensure their safety.
In an interview last year with a Savannah Morning News reporter, English’s attorney Elizabeth Graddy said her client did not want a vigilante presence at his home and did not authorize Travis and Greg McMichael to confront anyone on his property.
Raisa is a Watchdog and Investigative Reporter for The Savannah Morning News. Contact her at [email protected].
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism