“Although an indictment was filed today, our file is not closed and we will continue the investigation to achieve justice,” Carr, a Republican, said in a statement.
Arbery was killed on February 23, 2020 after a white father and son, Greg and Travis McMichael, armed themselves and chased the 25-year-old black man in a pickup truck after seeing him in their neighborhood outside the coastal city of Braunschweig.
A neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, joined the chase and took a cell phone video of Travis McMichael shooting Arbery at close range with a shotgun. The McMichales said they believed Arbery was a burglar and that he was shot after attacking Travis McMichael with his fists.
Police did not bring any charges against either of them immediately after the shooting, and the McMichaels and Bryan stayed free for more than two months before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took the case over. All three were charged with murder in May 2020 and will face trial in the fall.
Greg McMichael had worked as an investigator in Johnson’s office after he retired in 2019. Evidence presented in pre-trial hearings in the murder case shows that he called Johnson’s cell phone and left her a voice message shortly after the shooting.
“Jackie, this is Greg,” he said, according to a recording of the call that is on the public case file. “Could you call me asap? My son and I were involved in a shootout and I need advice right away. “
A recording of Greg McMichael’s cell phone calls that day does not show that Johnson called him back.
The indictment states that Johnson showed “favors and affection” to Greg McMichael during the investigation and disturbed police officers at the scene by “ordering that Travis McMichael should not be arrested.”
Johnson insisted she didn’t do anything wrong and said she immediately withdrew from the case because Greg McMichael was a former employee.
“I’m confident people will understand that our office did what it did under the circumstances, if the truth about it emerges,” Johnson told The Associated Press in November after losing her reelection.
Lee Merritt, an attorney for Arbery’s mother, said in a statement Thursday that prosecutors “must be held accountable if they disrupt an investigation to protect friends and law enforcement”.
He said Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, was “grateful to anyone who continues to advocate justice for Ahmaud and accountability at all levels.”
After the shooting, Johnson called an outside prosecutor, Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill, to answer police questions about how the shooting was handled.
Carr, the attorney general, appoints Barnhill to office on February 27, four days after the shooting. In his letter ordering an investigation last May, Carr said he was never told that Barnhill had already told police “that he sees no reason for the arrest of any of the people involved in Mr Arbery’s death involved”.
Barnhill later also retired after Arbery’s family learned that his son was serving as assistant prosecutor for Johnson. But before stepping aside, Barnhill wrote a letter to a Glynn County police officer saying the McMichaels were following “in ‘hot pursuit” of a burglar suspect with a solid probable cause firsthand in their neighborhood and asked / said him that it should stop. “
“It appears that their intent was to stop and detain this criminal suspect until law enforcement officers arrive. This is perfectly legal under Georgia law, ”advised Barnhill in the letter, referring to the Georgia Citizens Detention Act. That law was swiftly repealed in response to Arbery’s death, with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats.
Johnson blamed the controversy surrounding Arbery’s death for her electoral defeat last year after a decade as chief prosecutor for the five counties in southeast Georgia. She was defeated by independent candidate Keith Higgins, who had to collect thousands of signatures to get on the ballot.
Johnson didn’t immediately return a phone message asking for comment on Thursday afternoon.