13 face hazing charges in the death of drum major Robert Champion
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
UPDATE: As of Thursday, eight of the thirteen charged in the hazing death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion were in police custody.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, one of the suspects, Florida A&M student Aaron Golson, was previously one of the students charged when clarinetist Bria Hunter's leg was broken during a hazing ritual. That incident happened less than a month before Champion's death.
FAMU band director Julian White's legal team said Golson had been kicked out of the famed Marching 100 band after the first hazing incident, and that he shouldn't have been on the bus where Champion collapsed.
The eight named suspects are all students. Authorities haven't confirmed whether all 13 suspects are students, or if any alumni, faculty, or staff are facing charges, as the Sentinel notes.
Robert Champion's mother Pam said on Thursday that she wants the Marching 100 band dismantled until the hazing problem is addressed and solved, CBS and the Associated Press report. "You've got to clean house," she said.
Thursday, May 3: Florida officials on Wednesday filed charges against 13 people in connection with the 2011 hazing death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the state attorney's office based the charges on the state's 2011 anti-hazing law, which made hazing that results in injury a felony offense that carries a maximum sentence of six years. Eleven of the 13 face felony charges, while two others face only misdemeanor charges.
Prosecutors opted for the hazing charges, as opposed to more serious murder or manslaughter charges, because they say that there was no single blow that killed Champion.
The 26-year-old collapsed on a chartered bus after a football game in November of last year. He was, according to some university band members, participating in a hazing ritual that involved punching, kicking, and assaulting pledges as they attempt to run from one end of the bus to the other, CNN reports. He died of internal bleeding.
At a press conference announcing the charges, Orange County State Attorney Lawson Lamar called Champion's death "nothing short of an American tragedy," adding that "no one should have expected that his college experience would include being pummeled to death."
Lamar said that the names of those charges won't be released until they are in custody, so it remains somewhat unclear whether all of those facing charges are students. So far, the three people that have been named are: Rikki Willis, 24; Caleb Jackson, 23; and Bryan Jones, 23.
Champion's mother said on Wednesday that she had hoped for more severe charges in the death of her son, calling hazing a "very light term." The Champions have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner and driver of the bus where the hazing ritual took place, as The Root writes.