Prosecutors in Orlando are charging 12 former Florida A&M University band members with manslaughter in connection with the hazing death of a drum major Robert Champion, reports the Orlando Sentinel.The 26-year-old student, who was gay, died in November 2011 after a vicious hazing from fellow band members.
The Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office sent an e-mail to attorneys for the former band members on Monday afternoon notifying them that their clients will be charged with manslaughter in addition to the felony hazing charges for which they were arrested last spring. Most were charged last May in connection with Champion's beating Nov. 19, 2011, in Orlando.
On Monday, the Champion family applauded [State Attorney Jeff] Ashton's "courage in amending theses charges to be more [commensurate] with the heinous crime committed," said the family's attorney, Christopher Chestnut. Champion's parents had been disappointed and upset last May when the State Attorney's Office, previously under State Attorney Lawson Lamar, decided only to charge those involved with Champion's death with felony hazing.
Robert Champion was pummeled to death on the FAMU 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.
Thirteen defendants were initially charged with felony hazing in May 2012. Two defendants face misdemeanor counts. The felony hazing charge carries a maximum penalty of almost five years. "Manslaughter, a second-degree felony in Florida, is punishable by up to 15 years in prison," adds the Sentinel.
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. The university's attorneys created an uproar with their initial response to that lawsui last fall. The filing suggested the deceased student was responsible for his own death.
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.com: "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell": Why Has Black Media Ignored the Sexuality of FAMU Hazing Victim Robert Champion?"
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