Three former Florida A&M University (FAMU) students have each been sentenced to 10-years supervised probation for their part in the 2011 hazing death of Robert Champion. Champion, age 26, was a drum major in FAMU’s marching band, the Marching 100, and on November 19, 2011, took part in a brutal hazing ritual, which would cost him his life.
The sentencing follows that of fellow student and member of the Marching 100, and alleged ringleader in the hazing rite, Dante Martin, who was sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter and felony hazing in January. The hazing ritual was known as “crossing bus C,” and involved walking down the parked bus while being beaten.
Prosecutor and Florida state attorney, Jeff Ashton, requested a tougher sentence of nine-and-a-half years imprisonment for the three ex-students, and former members of the FAMU marching band, named by the Orlando Sentinel as Aaron Golson, Benjamin McNamee, and Darryl Cearnel. However, the judge, Renee A. Roche, showed clemency, saying that the evidence shows that Champion chose to take part in the hazing, the Sentinel reports.
“The court recognizes that perhaps Mr. Champion had thoughts or philosophical objections or reservations about this conduct, but there was no evidence of that presented in this case…the evidence was that he went to the bus on his own, that he responded affirmatively when he was asked if he was sure repeatedly, and there was no external pressure for him to participate.”
All three were convicted of manslaughter in April, the last convictions in the case. Speaking after the three were convicted, Ashton said that he hoped the verdict will help hazing be taken more seriously, News 13 reported.
“Young people will take a lesson from this and understand that hazing laws are serious — they have very devastating consequences.”
According to the Associated Press, the three could cut their probation period if they perform community outreach and help the fight against hazing. McNamee expressed his regret over the death, the AP also reports.
“I am utterly and completely embarrassed to have played any role. The traditions,… I now realize, there can be a dark side.”
Champion’s death cast a dark shadow over FAMU, with the Marching 100 being suspended for over a year, and the college’s president, James Ammons, resigning. When the band made its return to FAMU in June 2013, it came coupled with new anti-hazing rules, hoping to avoid another death like that of Champion.
[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]