Blaming the victim much? Florida A&M University has amended their motion to dismiss a wrongful death suit by the family of Robert Champion, the openly gay drum major who died last November after a vicious hazing from fellow band members. The university's attorneys have removed a controversial passage that suggests the deceased student was responsible for his own death, reports the Orlando Sentinel.
The paragraph in question states that Champion, as a 26-year-old band leader, should have refused to participate in the hazing and reported it to authorities. "Under these circumstances, Florida taxpayers should not be held financially liable to Mr. Champion's Estate for the ultimate result of his own imprudent, avoidable and tragic decision and death."
The amended motion, however, does not back off its original point that FAMU should not be held liable if Champion himself violated Florida law by participating in the hazing.
In an email to the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday night, Rick Mitchell of GrayRobinson, the university's lead trial counsel, said: "FAMU is not 'blaming' anyone for this tragic loss; rather, the University has asked the Court to decide the legal question of whether Florida's taxpayers can be held financially liable to Mr. Champion's Estate according to the facts of the case ...including him knowingly and voluntarily participating in felony hazing."
FAMU's initial filing created an avalanche of negative responses earlier this week. Champion's parents described the defense as a "slap in the face" and warned parents to "beware" of sending their children to Florida's only historically black public university., which has a long history of violent hazing incidents.
The university wants the lawsuit dismissed or action delayed until criminal charges against band members are resolved. Thirteen defendants were charged with felony hazing on May 2. Two defendants face midemeanor counts. The felony hazing charge carries a maximum penalty of almost six years.
Investigators have learned that more than 100 members of FAMU's famous marching band are NOT registered students. This includes at least three of the 11 band members charged in May with felony hazing.
Champion's parents publicly revealed in January that their son was gay. In addition to being vocally opposed to hazing, Champion's sexuality could have been among the reasons why he was viciously beaten during the attack, according to the family's attorney. Read more at my article for EBONY: "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell": Why Has Black Media Ignored the Sexuality of FAMU Hazing Victim Robert Champion?"
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