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Three charged in Arbery killing plead not guilty to federal hate crimes

Three charged in Arbery killing plead not guilty to federal hate crimes
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Three Georgia men plead not guilty on Tuesday to federal hate crime charges related to the death of Ahmed Arbery, a Black man whose killing by three white men while he was jogging set off national outrage.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Greg McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan all plead not guilty to five charges related to the killing. All three face state murder charges in a separate proceeding.

The federal charges accuse the men of using force to "injure, intimidate, and interfere with Ahmaud Arbery, an African American man, because of his race and color.”

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The three men have also plead not guilty to the state-issued murder charges over Arbery's death.

The three suspects have claimed that they were seeking to carry out a citizen's arrest of Arbery and that they acted in self-defense when he was killed.

Prosecutors say the men unlawfully chased down Arbery with guns while riding in two pickup trucks, and noted that they had not seen the victim commit any crime. 

Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempNorth Carolina county reverses course, ends coke machine ban MLB All-Star game to stay in Denver, judge rules MLB calls lawsuit over All-Star Game 'political theatrics' MORE (R) in signing legislation Monday that repealed a Georgia Civil War-era law that allows citizen's arrests in his state said Arbery was the victim of "vigilante-style violence that has no place in our country or in our state."

Travis McMichael is accused of directing a racial slur at Arbery after Arbery was shot. His attorneys have denied that their client used racist language. 

“There is absolutely nothing in the indictment that identifies how this is a federal hate crime and it ignores without apology that Georgia law allows a citizen to detain a person who was committing burglaries until police arrive,” the attorneys said in a statement to the AJC.

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An attorney for Greg McMichael representing him in his state trial added that the elder McMichael “had reasonable and probable grounds to suspect had committed a burglary in their neighborhood and was attempting to escape by running away.”

A judge is set to hear arguments in the coming days over whether the defense can submit evidence of Arbery's prior confrontation with law enforcement as well as his diagnosis of schizophrenia, which prosecutors have argued is an attempt to smear the dead man and justify vigilante activity.

“The only purpose for placing the other acts of Mr. Arbery before a jury is to smear the character of Mr. Arbery and suggest that his murder was deserved,” the prosecution wrote in response to the defense's request, according to the AJC.