Students Dismissed for Hazing After FAMU Band Death May Face Manslaughter Charges

Florida A&M University accused four band members of hazing and conspiracy.

December 2, 2011, 1:58 PM

Dec. 2, 2011— -- Four band members dismissed from Florida A&M University were allegedly involved in hazing drum major Robert Champion before he died and could face manslaughter charges, said a lawyer linked to the case.

In the students' dismissal letter, obtained by, they are accused of "an act of hazing" on Nov. 19 in Orlando, Fla., the day Champion died on a bus after performing with the school's famed marching band.

The school also charged the students with "conspiracy," defined in the student handbook as "planning with one or more fellow students to commit an act or acts that violate(s) the University Code of Conduct."

The dismissal notice describes the students' alleged offenses as being of "a serious, heinous or repulsive nature." The students have not been identified.

Police have said they believe that Champion's death was related to a hazing incident.

The school's band director Julian White, who was fired after Champion's death, identified the four band members who were allegedly involved in hazing the drum major and were dismissed by the school, his lawyer Charles Hobbs told today.

"If it's later determined by the sheriff's office [that Champion died from hazing], then the individuals could face more serious charges up to and including manslaughter," Hobbs said.

Under Florida law, hazing that results in the serious bodily injury or death of another person is a third degree felony.

"It could be up to five years in prison" if convicted, Hobbs said.

Champion's initial autopsy was inconclusive, and investigators are awaiting the results of further testing.

A spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department would not comment on the four dismissed students. "The case is still open, still active and we haven't received any update [from the school] of the case standing," the spokeswoman said.

The four band members accused of hazing and conspiracy will be participating in an emergency hearing to defend themselves, said FAMU spokeswoman Pamela Tolson. Their dismissal, according to the student handbook, may last up to five years. Readmission requires approval of a review board.

Hobbs said White was "devastated" by Champion's death. "He was overcome with grief at the funeral [held Wednesday]," Hobbs said.

On Monday FAMU will hold a mandatory forum to discuss "the problem of hazing." Clubs and organizations that fail to attend will be sanctioned, the school announced.

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