FAMU Hazing Brings Charges Against 13 in Drum Major Robert Champion's Death

Robert Champion collapsed and died in November following a hazing incident.

May 2, 2012, 9:55 AM

May 2, 2012 — -- Thirteen people were charged today in the hazing death of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion last fall in what the prosecutor said was "an American tragedy."

Florida State Attorney Lawson Lamar refused to release the identities of those charged "so they don't flee."

Champion, 26, was a member of the college's famed "Marching 100" band when he collapsed and died Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after a football game. The death was ruled a homicide and police said hazing contributed to his death.

Lamar called Champion's death "nothing short of an American tragedy" at a news conference today.

"While Robert and his family were sacrificing and preparing for his entrance into college, which eventually should have given him a bright and meaningful future, no one could expect that his experience could include being pummeled to death," he said.

"I have come to believe that hazing is a term for bullying. It's bullying with a tradition that we cannot bear in America," Lamar said.

The prosecutor said the majority of the charges are hazing resulting in death, which is a third-degree felony. If the defendant does not have a prior record, the maximum punishment for this charge is six years in prison.

Lamar said over 20 counts of misdemeanor hazing have also been filed for additional victims who were not seriously injured.

Lamar added that "further charges may be forthcoming in the future."

Officials said that one of the individuals charged has been arrested, one is out of state so they are coordinating with the state and authorities are working to take the other 11 into custody.

He said he spoke to the Champion family today.

"They stated to me today that they want to make sure that this prosecution in the memory of their son will help prevent this from ever happening again at FAMU or at any other university anywhere," Lamar said.

An autopsy revealed that Champion died of internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma. Officials said that he had bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back.

The charges were announced at a news conference at the state attorney's office this afternoon following a six-month investigation.

Some band members have said that Champion died after participating in a rite of passage called "crossing bus C," a ritual where new band members are beaten as they walk from the back to the front of the bus.

Four students were dismissed from the university after Champion's death, but were later reinstated pending the investigation's completion. The school's band director Julian White was fired, but later reinstated and put on administrative leave.

Since Champion's death, the school has stepped up its efforts to stamp out hazing which has long been a silent tradition within its band. Despite the efforts, the school has had multiple incidents over the past six months.

In January, four students were expelled after being arrested and charged with hazing offenses. They allegedly attacked five clarinet players as part of a hazing ritual for the same marching band.

And on Tuesday, two professors were forced to resign for their role in an off-campus student hazing incident. The professors were reportedly present at a 2010 hazing that occurred at one of the professor's homes.

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