Defense attorney Kevin Gough addresses the court during the trial for the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery at the Glynn County Courthouse on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021 in Brunswick, Ga. Greg McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, and a neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, are charged with the February 2020 death of 25-year-old Arbery. (Sean Rayford/Pool Photo via AP)

By AFRO Staff

Kevin Gough, a White defense attorney representing one of the men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery, has offered a non-apology apology for his rant against the presence of “Black pastors” in the courtroom after seeing the Rev. Al Sharpton sitting with the victim’s family.

“My apologies to anyone who might have inadvertently been offended,” said Gough, who is representing William Bryan, in a curt apology just before testimony ensued on day five of the trial on Nov. 12.

Bryan is one of three White men, including Gregory and Travis McMichael, accused of hunting and killing the then-25-year-old Arbery while he was out jogging in his Georgia neighborhood in February 2020.

During statements on Nov. 11, Gough objected to the presence of Sharpton, a well-known Black civil rights leader, who had been invited by Arbery’s family to sit with them in the court. The attorney suggested that Sharpton—and, perhaps any other Black pastor—would have a chilling effect on the jury.

“I’ve got nothing personally against Mr. Sharpton … but if we’re starting a precedent where we’re gonna bring high-profile members of the African-American community into the courtroom to sit with the family during the trial in the presence of the jury, I believe that’s intimidating and it’s an attempt to consciously or unconsciously pressure or influence the jury,” Gough told the judge.

Marcus Arbery, right, applauds as his former wife Wanda Cooper speaks about the slaying of their son Ahmaud Arbery as Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton stands between them outside the Glynn County courthouse, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Brunswick, Ga. Rev. Sharpton led a prayer and spoke out against injustice during the noon break in the trial of three men charged with murder in Ahmaud Abery’s shooting death. (Terry Dickson/The Brunswick News via AP)

“The idea that we’re going to be serially bringing these people in series to sit down with the victim’s family one after another…obviously, there’s only a limited number of pastors they can have,” he continued. “If their pastor is Al Sharpton right now that’s fine, but that’s it. We don’t want any more black pastors here…Jesse Jackson, or whoever was in here earlier this week.”

But he didn’t stop there. Gough went on to make a bizarre comparison in his attempt to paint Black pastors as boogey men that would scare the jury.

“If a bunch of people come in here dressed like Colonel Sanders with white masks sitting in the back …” he added before Judge Timothy Walmsley cut him off, indicating he was “not going to blanketly exclude members of the public from this courtroom.”

Sharpton, president of National Action Network and host of “PoliticsNation” on MSNBC, called Gough’s statements insensitive to the Arbery family, and racist.

“We sat on the back row of the court with no disruption—how is that influencing and intimidating anyone?” Sharpton said on MSNBC. He added, “It is blatant racism his so-called apology today, saying ‘if’ someone was offended, like not even recognizing the blatant racism of his statement.”

Sharpton had prayed with the family, asking for justice in the case before entering the courtroom, Nov. 10.

In response to Gough’s gaffe, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who has represented other families whose relatives have died at the hands of police or by other extrajudicial means, said he is planning to bring 100 Black pastors to pray with the Arbery family next week.

“It is not illegal for Black pastors to support the parents of Ahmaud Arbery or any other Black victims. We are going to bring 100 Black pastors to pray with the family next week,” he said on Twitter.

The defendants in the case are facing nine criminal charges including felony murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment in the death of Arbery, which they claimed was as the result of a citizen’s arrest.

The trial, which began Nov. 8, is expected to last two weeks.

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