There are new developments in the case of Robert Champion, the 26-year-old Florida A&M University drum major who died in November 2011 after a vicious hazing from fellow band members. Champion was gay. Twenty-four-year-old Caleb Jackson—one of the co-defendants charged with Champion's death—has plead guilty to manslaughter and will "provide prosecutors with a detailed statement and testify truthfully in the cases of his 11 co-defendants" reports the Orlando Sentinel.
According to an 89-page investigative summary of Champion's death, Orange County sheriff's detectives spoke with several band members who said they saw [Jackson] pulling on Champion or jumping on the drum major. Because Jackson had a prior battery conviction, he faces "the specter of more prison time than anyone else" charged in the case, [his attorney Chuck Hobbs] said.... Hobbs said prosecutors made no promises on sentencing..
A dozen ex-band members, including Jackson, are charged with felony hazing and manslaughter in Champion's death. Prosecutors, without explanation, beefed up the charges [on March 4], notifying defense lawyers by email. The manslaughter charge carries a possible 15-year prison sentence.
Ryan Dean, whop was given a probationary, community-service sentence for his role in Champion's death, provided the signed statement to Orange County prosecutors. In his statement, Dean identified defendant LaSherry Codner who, he says, punched Champion and held him back from reaching the rear of the bus as he absorbed kicks and punches from other band members. Dean also described defendant Benjamin McNamee holding onto the rails of the bus as he appeared to be kicking Champion after he had fallen into a seat. Dean named others as well.
Florida A&M University is the state's only public, historically black university. The Tallahassee-based university was founded in 1887 "and it is the largest historically black university in the United States by enrollment," according to its Wiki.
FAMU is well-known for its Marching "100" Band—which has a long history of violent hazing incidents. Investigators learned in May 2012 that more than 100 members of the marching band were NOT registered students. That included at least three of the 11 band members initially charged with felony hazing.
Champion's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university, bus company and driver, claiming they encouraged or ignored illegal hazing acts over many years.
Champion's parents publicly revealed in January 2012 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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