WASHINGTON, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Three men on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges over the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African American man who was shot while jogging in U.S. southern state of Georgia last year.
Escorted by U.S. marshals, Gregory McMichael, 65; his son, Travis McMichael, 35; and William "Roddie" Bryan, 51, appeared in person before the federal judge in Brunswick, Georgia.
The men were each charged with one count of interference with civil rights and with one count of attempted kidnapping, according to a Justice Department statement released last month. Travis and Gregory McMichael also face charges of using guns to inflict violence.
The indictment alleges that the defendants used force and threats to intimidate and interfere with Arbery's right to use a public street because of his skin color.
Arbery was chased, shot and killed while jogging outside Brunswick on Feb. 23, 2020. No charges had been filed in the case until a cellphone video of the shooting went viral in early May that year, making it a national case.
According to police reports cited by U.S. media, Gregory McMichael, a retired police detective, saw Arbery jogging and thought he was a suspect in a series of break-ins in the neighborhood. He then called his son, and they armed themselves with a handgun and a shotgun, respectively, and chased Arbery in a truck. Bryan saw the McMichaels driving by and joined the pursuit.
The three men were charged with nine counts in June last year, including malice murder, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment, according to media reports.
Arbery's tragedy fueled widespread outrage over racial inequity in the United States as African Americans suffer a disproportionate share of the negative health and economic outcomes from the coronavirus pandemic.