Lawyer: Arbery shooter fears he’ll be killed in state prison

Copeland said she has alerted Georgia’s corrections agency, “which has replied that these threats are unverified and that it can securely house McMichael in state custody.”

Greg McMichael, 66, has also asked the judge to put him in federal rather than state prison, citing safety concerns and health problems.

Arbery’s family family has insisted the McMichaels and Bryan should serve their sentences in a state prison, arguing a federal penitentiary wouldn’t be as tough. His parents objected forcefully before the federal trial when both McMichaels sought a plea deal that would have included a request to transfer them to federal prison. The judge ended up rejecting the plea agreement.

“Granting these men their preferred choice of confinement would defeat me,” Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, told the judge at a hearing Jan. 31. “It gives them one last chance to spit in my face.”

A federal judge doesn’t have the authority to order a state to relinquish its lawful custody of inmates to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said Ed Tarver, an Augusta lawyer and former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

“She can certainly make that request,” Tarver said of the judge, “and it would be up to the state Department of Corrections whether or not they agree to do that.”

Copeland’s court filing refers to a prior agreement between the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys to keep the McMichaels and Bryan in federal custody “through the completion of the federal trial and any post-trial proceedings.” She argued that means Travis McMichael should at least remain in federal custody through appeals of his hate crime conviction.

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