The first of eleven defendants to be sentenced in connection with last year’s hazing death of an openly gay Florida A&M drum major has avoided jail time. Twenty-three-year-old Brian Jones changed his "not guilty" plea to "no contest" earlier this month. He was sentenced today to probation on one charge of felony hazing, reports WESH/NBC 2.
Judge Marc Lubet sentenced Jones to six months community control, two years supervised probation and 200 hours of community service. He also will have to stay in school or work full-time, have no contact with the Champions or the other band members as well as take a four-hour hazing course. Jones faced up to five years in prison and a possible $5,000 fine.
Robert Champion was pummeled to death on the band bus during a trip to Orlando on 19 November 2011. The 26-year-old drum major suffered blunt trauma blows and died from shock caused by severe bleeding, according to the autopsy. FAMU is Florida's only historically black public university.
Jones allegedly held Robert Champion "in a bear hug" during the hazing ritual. Champion's family disputes the judge's description of Jones' involvement as "rather minimal", reports The Orlando Sentinel.
Pamela Champion's parents, who traveled from Georgia for today's proceeding, plan to hold a press conference later this afternoon to make a statement about the judge's ruling. But they had expressed disappointment this past spring, when prosecutors decided to seek third-degree felony hazing charges instead of murder or manslaughter charges for the band members who played a role in the musician's death.
Thirteen defendants were charged with felony hazing in May. Two defendants face midemeanor counts. The felony hazing charge carries a maximum penalty of almost six years. Champion's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the bus company and driver, claiming they willingly participated in illegal hazing acts over many years.
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.com: "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell": Why Has Black Media Ignored the Sexuality of FAMU Hazing Victim Robert Champion?"
No jail time. Just a Black gay college who was hazed and beaten to death. Nothing to see here, keep moving!
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