A federal judge in Georgia has rejected a plea agreement negotiated between federal prosecutors and one of the three white males convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, stating that she was unwilling to be bound by the accord’s 30-year federal prison sentence.

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Travis McMichael revealed for the first time that he followed the 25-year-old Black guy because of his race, prompting the ruling by U.S. District Judge Lisa Wood.

In the United States District Court in Brunswick, Georgia, McMichael was attempting to amend his plea to guilty to using a gun in an attempt to seize Arbery because of his “race and colour,” which resulted in Arbery’s death.

Gregory McMichael, his father, was also scheduled to plead guilty as part of an arrangement at a later hearing on Monday.

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According to court records filed late Sunday by prosecutors for the United States Justice Department, Travis and Greg McMichael reached plea deals. There was no mention of a bargain with William “Roddie” Bryan, the third defendant in the case. The settlement was criticised by Arbery’s parents as a betrayal, and they urged the judge to reject it.

The settlement, according to Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s mother Wanda Cooper-Jones, will allow the McMichaels to serve their term in federal jail rather than in Georgia prisons, where the conditions are harsher.

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When the McMichaels and Bryan chased Arbery across their neighbourhood in coastal Georgia on Feb. 23, 2020, they were indicted on federal counts of violating his civil rights because he was Black. In one pickup truck, the McMichaels armed themselves with pistols and pursued Arbery, while Bryan joined the chase in another and captured video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery with a shotgun.

When the terrible footage of Arbery’s killing came online two months after the shooting, it sparked a national outcry. After being convicted of state murder charges last fall in Glynn County Superior Court, all three men were sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 7.