Dante Martin was sentenced to six years in prison for the hazing death of 26-year-old Robert Champion. In 2011, Champion was killed during a brutal hazing ritual at Florida A&M University. Authorities said Champion was the ringleader, as he arranged and participated in the bizarre ritual.
Martin and Champion were both members of the FAMU band, when the incident occurred. On November 19, 2011, the Marching 100 traveled to the Florida Citrus Bowl to perform during the halftime show.
Later that same evening, several band members gathered on the band bus, which was parked outside the Rosen Plaza Hotel. As reported by New York Times, the students were participating in a deadly hazing ritual.
During the ritual, Champion was struck with bass drum mallets, drumsticks, and closed fists. Authorities said an estimated 15 students proceeded to hit and kick Champion until he was physically ill.
Although the ritual was declared over, it was simply too late. Robert Champion collapsed on the floor and was later pronounced dead. An autopsy later revealed the FAMU student died of “hemorrhagic shock caused by blunt-force trauma.”
A total of 11 students, including Dante Martin, were arrested and charged with felony hazing.
Head drum major Jonathan Boyce said Champion understood the hazing ritual, and had been “wanting to do it all season.” Boyce said band members were willing to participate in the hazing, as it was “like a respect thing.”
Martin was the admitted “Bus C President.” However, his defense team argued that “there was not a scintilla of evidence that [the defendant] encouraged anyone to hit or kick Mr. Champion or anyone else.”
In October 2013, Dante Martin was convicted of felony hazing and manslaughter. Prior to sentencing, he expressed remorse, and acknowledged that Champion’s brutal death “is something [he] will live with for the rest of [his] life.”
Although prosecutors recommended a sentence of nine years in prison, Judge Renee Roche imposed a lighter sentence as Champion was a “willing participant” in the hazing ritual.
As reported by CBS News, Martin’s co-defendants received lighter sentences ranging from community service to 51 weeks in jail.
Champion’s death prompted Florida A&M University to suspend all band activities for nearly two years. As school officials were accused of permitting “a culture of hazing,” the University’s band director and president eventually resigned.
Dante Martin will spend six years in prison for Champion’s hazing death. However, he was spared the maximum sentence.
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