Florida A&M University has offered $300,000 to settle 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. Champion's family is outraged and their attorney says the settlement offer is "insulting", reports CNN and the Orlando Sentinel.
Pamela and Robert Champion Sr. were "insulted" by the offer and have rejected it, said the family's attorney, Christopher Chestnut, who did not say what amount might be acceptable. "The family remains concerned that FAMU is not taking this as seriously as it should," Chestnut said.
FAMU, a public university, can only offer a maximum of $300,000 without seeking approval from the state. "Anything more would require a special act approved by the state Legislature," said Rick Mitchell [an attorney representing FAMU].
FAMU is Florida's only public historically Black college or university.
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. The medical examiner's office ruled his death a homicide.
The hazing was part of a ritual known as "crossing the bus." Pledges attempt to run down the center aisle of the bus to the back during the initiation process. Champion was punched, brutally kicked, slammed with a "big orange traffic cone" and beaten with drum sticks, according to "hundreds of pages" of evidence released by prosecutors.
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. The first defendant was sentenced in late October and avoided jail time. Twenty-three-year-old Brian Jones was sentenced to six months "community control", two years supervised probation and 200 hours of community service.
In addition to the wrongful death lawsuit against FAMU's board of trustees, Champion's family has filed a similar lawsuit against the bus company and driver, claiming they willingly participated in illegal hazing acts over many years. An avalanche of negative publicity forced FAMU to amend it first response to the Champion's lawsuit in September. The initial filing suggested that the deceased student was responsible for his own death.
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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