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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks After Federal Jury Finds Three Men Guilty of Hate Crimes in Connection with the Pursuit and Killing of Ahmaud Arbery


Washington, DC
United States

Remarks as Delivered

This morning, three defendants were convicted of committing federal hate crimes in connection with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

On February 23, 2020, Mr. Arbery was targeted, chased, shot, and killed while running on a public street.

Today, a jury of the defendants’ peers unanimously found beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants acted because Mr. Arbery was Black.

The defendants’ actions — and the racism that fueled them — have inflicted enduring trauma on Mr. Arbery’s family, his friends, his community and communities across the nation.

My heart goes out to his parents, Ms. Wanda Cooper-Jones and Mr. Marcus Arbery, Sr., for the unimaginable loss they have endured.

Upon its founding after the Civil War during Reconstruction, the Justice Department was tasked with bringing to justice those who used terror and violence to prevent Black Americans from exercising their civil rights.

The white supremacists who carried out those acts assumed that they could operate outside the bounds of the law.

Modern federal hate crime laws have enhanced the Justice Department’s authority to prosecute violent acts motivated by bias.

Throughout our history, and to this day, hate crimes have a singular impact because of the terror and fear they inflict on entire communities.

The Justice Department does not investigate or prosecute people because of their ideology or the views they hold, no matter how vile.

But the Justice Department does have the authority — and will not hesitate to act — when individuals commit violent acts that are motivated by bias or hatred.

No one in this country should have to fear the threat of hate fueled violence.

No one should fear being attacked or threatened because of what they look like, where they are from, whom they love, or how they worship. 

And no one should fear that if they go out for a run, they will be targeted and killed because of the color of their skin.

The Justice Department has a legal obligation to prosecute federal hate crimes.

And as Americans, all of us have a moral obligation to combat the hatred and bigotry that motivates those crimes.

Today’s verdict makes clear that the Justice Department will continue to use every resource at its disposal to confront unlawful acts of hate, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate them.

I want to thank the members of the Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia, and the FBI for their work on this case.     

I also want to thank the jurors for their service, and the state authorities — including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation — that assisted in this prosecution. 

Although we welcome the jury’s verdict, the only acceptable outcome in this matter would have been Mr. Arbery returning safely to his loved ones two years ago.

His family and friends should be preparing to celebrate his 28th birthday later this Spring, not mourning the second anniversary of his death tomorrow. 

Ahmaud Arbery should be alive today.

Thank you.

Civil Rights
Hate Crimes
Updated April 12, 2022