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One of the three men convicted of chasing down and murdering Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man, in the US state of Georgia is set to stand trial in a federal hate crime case after changing his plea to not guilty.
The switch comes after a US District Court judge rejected the terms of a plea deal Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis, reached with federal prosecutors.
Lawyers for Gregory McMichael and federal prosecutors filed a joint notice of withdrawal of his plea agreement on Thursday, saying the deal is “null and void” and that both sides were “ready for trial”.
The filing reaffirmed the elder McMichael’s original plea of not guilty.
The McMichaels, along with neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan, were convicted of murder in a Georgia state court last year for pursuing and fatally shooting 25-year-old Arbery in a Glynn County neighbourhood in February 2020.
Last week, prosecutors announced they had reached a plea deal on separate federal hate crime charges that would see the McMichaels plead guilty in exchange for spending a portion of their life sentences in more preferable federal prison facilities.
Arbery’s family quickly condemned the agreement as a “back-room deal” that left them “completely betrayed” by federal prosecutors.
Filings did not indicate plans to change the guilty plea of Travis McMichael, who has said he opened fire and fatally shot Arbery in self-defence.
The younger McMichael was set to appear in court on Friday to formally re-enter the guilty plea.
There has been no indication as to whether the third defendant, Bryan, is currently considering a plea bargain.
Arbery’s killing sparked national outrage after a video of the incident, taken by Bryan, began circulating online. His death, along with the police killing of George Floyd and several other high-profile killings of unarmed Black Americans, set off a summer of racial justice protests in the US.
Arbery’s killing also drew attention to a Civil War-era citizens arrest law, leading to its overhaul in the wake of the incident.
This content was originally published here.