Twelve former Florida A&M University band members are now charged with manslaughter in the 2011 hazing death of drum major Robert Champion. Ten of the band members had been charged last May with felony hazing, but the prosecutors in the case raised the charges to manslaughter and added two additional defendants.
Champion, 26, died after being beaten on a school bus after a football game in Orlando, Florida. The beating was part of a hazing ritual, and required pledges to run down the center of the bus while being punched and kicked by other band members. Authorities say Champion had bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back and died of internal bleeding within an hour of the beating. Witnesses told emergency dispatchers that the drum major was vomiting before he was found unresponsive aboard the bus.
Champion’s family feel the new charges are appropriate.
“Robert Champion wasn’t injured by hazing, he was killed by hazing,” Champion family attorney Christopher Chestnut told CNN. “The family is encouraged by … that (and feels) this is the right message and hopes that this is the right message regarding hazing.”
But one of the defendant’s attorney feels that the prosecution is out for jail time. Craig Brown, the attorney for Aaron Golson, feels the new charges are scare tactics.
“I really find this to be a tactic by the state to pressure all of the defendants into some sort of prison time,” Brown told CNN. “Clearly a manslaughter charge could have been brought about initially.”
If convicted the twelve former students face a maximum of 15 years in prison.