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Homicide by Hazing

Posted by on May. 2, 2012 at 8:38 PM
  • 17 Replies


Quote:

13 charged in FAMU 'homicide by hazing'

Orange County state attorney calls Robert Champion's death 'American tragedy'

Published On: May 02 2012 02:23:26 PM EDT  Updated On: May 02 2012 05:45:19 PM EDT


FAMU student Robert Champion

Champion Family

Robert Champion

ORLANDO, Fla. -

Thirteen people were charged Wednesday for their roles in the hazing death of Florida A&M university drum major who was severely beaten during a ritual, something the district attorney called "an American tragedy."

Leon County Sheriff's Office spokesman James McQuaig said 23-year-old Caleb Jackson and 24-year-old Rikki Wills were booked into the Leon County Jail at 4 p.m. Wednesday for their roles in Champion's death.

Champion was severely beaten by band members in November and had with bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back, authorities said. Witnesses told emergency dispatchers Champion was vomiting before he was found unresponsive aboard the bus.

State Attorney Lawson Lamar said 11 of the 13 people will face a hazing resulting death charge, a third-degree felony. If convicted, they could face up to nearly six years in prison. The other two people will face a misdemeanor charges.

Lamar called Champion's death "homicide by hazing."

The names of those charged will not be released until they are all arrested, Lamar said. It was also not immediately clear whether they were all band members.

Legal experts had predicted prosecutors may file more serious charges like manslaughter and second-degree murder. The Champion family attorney, Christopher Chestnut, said they were disappointed.

"They had hoped for more serious charges. They were hoping for a stronger message. He was beaten to death," he said.

Prosecutors, however, didn't think they had enough evidence.

"The testimony obtained to date does not support a charge of murder, in that it does not contain the elements of murder," Lamar said. "We can prove participation in hazing and a death. We do not have a blow or a shot or a knife thrust that killed Mr. Champion. It is an aggregation of things which exactly fit the Florida statute as written by the Legislature."

Florida's hazing law was passed in 2005 following the death of University of Miami student Chad Meredith four years earlier. Meredith was drunk and died trying to swim across a lake at the behest of fraternity brothers. No criminal charges were filed in his case, but a civil jury ordered the fraternity Kappa Sigma to pay Meredith's parents $12 million.

Champion's death has jeopardized the future of FAMU's legendary marching band, which has performed at the Grammys, presidential inaugurations, Super Bowls and even represented the U.S. in Paris at the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.

Hazing has long been a problem in marching bands, particularly at historically black colleges in the South, where a spot in the band is coveted and revered as much as the sports teams.

On HBCU campuses, band members are often given perks and treated like celebrities. Band nicknames are almost as well-known as the school mascot: The Human Jukebox, The Sonic Boom of the South, and in Florida A&M's case, The Marching 100.

Much of the hazing reported at Florida A&M has involved students trying to get into certain groups within the band. Those who don't make a group were often ostracized.

Champion's parents have sued the bus company owner, claiming in a lawsuit that the bus driver stood guard outside the bus while the hazing took place. The bus company owner initially said the bus driver was helping other band members with their equipment when the hazing took place.

Witnesses in the Champion case have told his parents he might have been targeted because he opposed the hazing, the parents' attorney has said. It has also been suggested to them that Champion was targeted because he was gay and a candidate for chief drum major.

The lawsuit described two types of hazing that took place on the bus. During the first, pledges of a band clique known as "Bus C" ran from the front to the back of the bus while other band members slapped, kicked and hit them. A pledge who fell was stomped and dragged to the front of the bus to run again.

In a ritual known as "the hot seat," a pillow case was placed over the pledge's nose and mouth while the pledge was forced to answer questions. If a pledge got a right answer, the pillow case was removed briefly; a pledge with a wrong answer was given another question without a chance to take a breath, the lawsuit said.

ORLANDO, Fla. -

FAMU has suspended the band and launched a task force to recommend steps it could take to curtail hazing.

Four band members were also arrested earlier this year and charged with hazing in the alleged beatings of five pledges to a marching band club known as the Clones, a group within the band's clarinet section, a police report said.

The hazing took place in "three or four initiation meetings" that began around Sept. 1 in a house about a mile from campus. Five pledges were lined up in order of their height and "forced to exercise, play music, and were either punched, prepped (slapped with both hands on back) and/or paddled," police said.

During the initiations, pledges were forced to give money and were pressured to keep exercising "even after exhaustion."

On Tuesday, a lawyer for two FAMU music professors who allegedly were present during an unrelated hazing of band fraternity pledges in early 2010 said they have been forced out.

 

What the hell is wrong with people!  Not only are many saying this is 'tradition' but it is expected and nothing has ever been done to stop it.  

What gets in to the heads of those who killed this young man!  I cannot comprehend, I just can't.

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song." ~ Maya Angelou

by on May. 2, 2012 at 8:38 PM
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Replies (1-10):
punky3175
by on May. 2, 2012 at 8:49 PM
I have heard of hazing in the military and in fraternities but for MARCHING bands? Seriously?

And I agree - what the hell is wrong with people? I knew I was going to get in trouble in the Army if they ever tried to haze me because I would have gotten very mouthy and probably violent.
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Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on May. 2, 2012 at 10:32 PM
I totally expected another 'Harry's Law' what if question. This is nuts!
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Euphoric
by Bazinga! on May. 2, 2012 at 10:36 PM
So sad.
Mommy_of_Riley
by Jes on May. 2, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Hazing happened in our High School Band more than the Sports teams...

Band is a serious affair in the south...

So sad to see this young man die. Hazing is just stupid.
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vinalex0581
by Member on May. 2, 2012 at 10:50 PM

Any criminal act is wrong. People get murdered everyday. Why is this such a big deal?

EmilyMarshall
by on May. 2, 2012 at 10:54 PM
So sad.


turtle68
by Mahinaarangi on May. 2, 2012 at 11:19 PM

 damn...glad we didnt have that "tradition" here.   But then we dont have pretentious "clubs" at Uni either.

 

FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on May. 2, 2012 at 11:20 PM


Quoting vinalex0581:

Any criminal act is wrong. People get murdered everyday. Why is this such a big deal?

Wow.


"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song." ~ Maya Angelou

FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on May. 2, 2012 at 11:21 PM


Quoting Veni.Vidi.Vici.:

I totally expected another 'Harry's Law' what if question. This is nuts!

Hahahahah!

Thanks for reminding me..........I dvr'd Sunday's episode.  I need to watch it! lol


"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song." ~ Maya Angelou

punky3175
by on May. 3, 2012 at 9:04 AM

Now in all sincerity (no snarkiness at all intended) what is so big about band?  Is it the scholarship potential?  I'm a southern girl myself and I've never heard of this.  I was even friends with band "geeks" in high school. 

Quoting Mommy_of_Riley:

Hazing happened in our High School Band more than the Sports teams...

Band is a serious affair in the south...

So sad to see this young man die. Hazing is just stupid.

 

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