Twenty-seven-year-old Shawn Turner has become the fourth former Florida A&M University band member to plead "no contest" in the hazing death of Robert Champion, reports the Orlando Sentinel. The 26-year-old FAMU drum major died in November 2011 after a vicious hazing from fellow band members. Champion was gay.
Turner will likely receive a community-service sentence similar to those imposed on other band members who have admitted they were present at the hazing, Orange-Osceola assistant state attorney Nicole Pegues said. Prosecutors will drop the manslaughter count in the agreement, which requires Turner to provide investigators with detailed testimony about Nov. 19, 2011, hazing that killed Champion.
Like Rikki Wills, who pleaded no contest last month, Turner has insisted he was only trying to shield Champion from the punches, kicks and drumstick strikes on a charter bus in the Rosen Plaza hotel parking lot. No one has acknowledged striking Champion during the ritual known as "Crossing Bus C," but detectives estimated he absorbed 300 blows while running through a gauntlet of bandmates.
Fourteen former band members pleaded "not guilty in April to charges of manslaughter in connection with the case. Turner becomes the fourth to have pleaded no contest to felony hazing or manslaughter. Champion's former roommate Rikki Wills pleaded "no contest" last month and is expected to be sentenced on Friday. "Former band members Ryan Dean and Brian Jones received community-service sentences last year. Another band member, Caleb Jackson, is expected to receive prison time when he is sentenced later this year," adds UPI.
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. The Marching 100 has been suspended since Champion's death. The university will make a decision late this month on reinstating the band, reports Tallahassee's WCTV.
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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