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Suspects in death of Ahmaud Arbery plead 'not guilty' to murder, assault charges

'I do not see masks as being a political statement'; Judge responds to mask objections from lawyer
Suspects in Ahmaud Arbery's killing face judge Friday
Posted at 6:51 AM, Jul 17, 2020

Three men pleaded not guilty to the charges they face in connection with the death of Ahmaud Arbery in February. Gregory and Travis McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. all make their pleas Friday morning via video conference.

However, the issue that got more attention at the hearing was masks.

Bryan's attorney, Kevin Gough, began his client's portion of the hearing discussing masks. He asked for clarification if Bryan had to wear a mask while appearing remotely at the jail. Since he was distanced from others in the jail's video conference room, the judge clarified that he was allowed to remove it.

Gough then raised an objection, saying he thought wearing masks referencing George Floyd in the courtroom was a political statement. He was referencing the Arbery family attorney who was sitting in the courtroom.

"I do not see masks as being a political statement,” Chatham County superior court judge Timothy Walmsley responded, saying masks were required by public health guidelines and he wore one when he took the bench.

"The courtroom is not a place for political statements, not a place for outbursts," he continued, saying if any behavior or actions by anyone in the courtroom becomes disruptive, it will be dealt with. “This is not the place to make a statement," Judge Walmsley said.

Gregory and Travis McMichael were arrested on May 7 for the February 23 shooting death of Arbery outside of Brunswick, Georgia. Greg McMichael told police he suspected Arbery was a burglar and that Arbery attacked his son before being shot.

Arbery was running in a neighborhood at the time. In the charging documents, prosecutors allege the McMichaels chased Arbery before shooting him.

Bryan, the man who recorded the fatal shooting of Arbery, was arrested later on charges including felony murder.

Last month, a grand jury indicted Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. on malice and felony murder charges in Arbery’s death