Florida A&M band members have been charged in the hazing death of 26-year-old Robert Champion. The former Drum Major was allegedly killed in a hazing incident that occurred on a bus in the parking lot of a hotel in 2011.
The twelve former band members were charged with second-degree manslaughter in a Florida court today. Ten of 12 former Florida A&M band members were previously charged with third-degree felony hazing. Prosecutors added the manslaughter charges today for all 12 former band members involved in the hazing incident.
Champion was subjected to a ritual called “crossing over,” which was reportedly a traditional right of passage within the Florida A&M marching band. As reported by CBS, witnesses stated that while champion was initially opposed to the hazing ritual, he eventually asked to participate.
Several of the former Florida A&M band members who have been charged in Champion’s hazing death have stated that he consented to participate due to the sense of “honor” surrounding the ritual. Although 15 students allegedly participated, a total of 13 were eventually charged.
Prosecutors charge that Champion suffered a “savage beating” which caused him to vomit and eventually lose consciousness. Champion later died as a result of injuries.
Two additional former band members were charged and sentenced last year in the hazing incident. Ryan Dean and Brian Jones both entered a no-contest plea to felony hazing.
Dean was sentenced to serve 200 hours of community service and will remain on active probation for four years. Jones was sentenced to serve 200 hours of community services as well as being placed on community control probation for a period of six months. Community control in Florida is a well supervised form of community release, which will allow Jones to avoid incarceration as long as he complies with rules set by the state.
Prosecution has stated that a list of witnesses tops 100 people, and will likely delay the trial. Another status hearing ill be held in August for the former Florida A&M band members charged in the death of Robert Champion.