The Department of Justice approached Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, about a plea deal that would have Travis McMichael and his father Gregory McMichael spend 30 years in prison if they acknowledge that their crime was motivated by hate, Lee Merritt, the family’s attorney said.
In addition to state charges, the three men are being charged with federal hate crimes that accuse the defendants of using threats and force to intimidate and interfere with Arbery's constitutional right to use a public street because of his race.
Cooper-Jones said she rejected the plea deal because she wants her son’s killers to stand trial in court for those charges.
"I think that the federal charges are just as important as the state charges and I think that they need to stand trial for those charges as well," Cooper-Jones said.
As EBONY previously reported, both McMicheals along with neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan were convicted of state murder charges in November. All three men will be sentenced for those charges on Friday.
Merritt says he believes that the plea deal that was offered showed how "shocked" the McMichaels were at their conviction.
"I think they [Travis and Gregory McMichael] were shocked by the outcome in this case as much of the nation was,” Merritt said. "And now they're going to have to stand trial before some of the best attorneys in the country, out of the Department of Justice, and they're going to have to admit to the hateful nature of what they did.”
Merritt said that he believes that this case is evidence of just how serious the DOJ is about seeking justice when it comes to crimes that the courts deem were racially motivated.
"I think it shows that we have a Department of Justice that is aggressively pursuing hate crimes, that it is aggressively pursuing accountability in cases where we haven't seen that before," Merritt said.