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Charges Being Brought over FAMU Drum Major’s Death by “Hazing”
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The Florida A&M University announced filing of criminal charges against several persons suspected of causing the death of an African American Drum Major of FAMU by a “hazing” ritual. On Tuesday the law investigation had stated, “We’re announcing that charges will be filed against several people involved in the death.” Charges were to be filed within Wednesday over the death of Robert Champion, 26, who died in November. Some band members of the university had said at the time that Champion had died after participating in an annual rite of passage called “Crossing Bus C.”

According to band members, the ritual is used to initiate members. In the ritual, pledges try to run down the center aisle from the front door of the bus to the back while senior members keep assaulting them by punching, kicking, and in a no-holds-barred fashion.

Champion collapsed in the bus during the rite in Orlando. The bus, at the time, was carrying members of FAMU’s Marching 100 following a November Football game where the group had performed.

  
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The office of the medical examiner ruled that Champion’s death was homicide and he had “collapsed and died within an hour of a hazing incident during which he suffered multiple blunt trauma blows to his body.”

The autopsy found that there were “extensive contusions of his chest, arms, shoulder and back (and) evidence of crushing of areas of subcutaneous fat.” The university board of trustees approved an anti-hazing plan with an independent panel of experts following the incident.

Prosecutors have ready a minimum of five separate cases against the suspected hazing high-priests. The charges range from misdemeanors to felonies. Hazing is a third-degree felony in Florida, but prosecutors are bringing manslaughter and second-degree murder into the equation.

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An Orlando defense attorney told the media, “…if his injuries were so that when they were beating him, it became readily apparent that he was in real distress and they kept beating him, then I think they would have manslaughter, possibly second-degree murder.”

Florida’s anti-hazing law of 2005 was born after the death of a Florida college student by hazing. The law defines ‘hazing’ as any act that endangers the health or safety of a student for the purpose of admission to a school group.



Christopher Chestnut, the attorney of Champion’s parents told the media, “Obviously it’s comforting to know that someone will be held accountable for Robert’s murder, but it’s also disconcerting to think of the impact on the future of these students … This is just unfortunate all the way around.”

Witnesses in the case have reported that Robert Champion may have been targeted because he had openly opposed the culture of hazing in the band. Other facts that Champion was gay, and was a candidate for chief drum major may have accounted in the furious beating that resulted in the death of the 26-year old.



 

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