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.
Circuit Judge Marc Lubet, who has presided over the cases against 14 former members of Florida A & M University's celebrated marching band ... set Aug. 2 as his deadline for defendants to accept the state's plea deals – or face a trial.
Most of the defendants had pleaded not guilty last year to felony hazing, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. But prosecutors added two defendants, Darryl Cearnel and Henry "Snacks" Nesbitt, and upgraded the potential risk to ex-band members last month adding a charge of manslaughter, which carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.
Two former band members have pleaded no-contest to third-degree felony hazing. A third is expected to plead guilty later this month and has agreed to "testify truthfully in the cases of his co-defendants." A fourth co-defendant has provided an eyewitness account of Champion's brutal death, which allegedly included being kicked, punched and hit with traffic cones.
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 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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