Thirteen people have been charged in the hazing death of Robert Champion, the drum major for Florida A&M University’s “Marching 100” whose death shook the university and led to the suspension of the iconic band, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.
Eleven individuals were each charged with a single count of hazing resulting in death, a third-degree felony, and two counts of hazing, a first-degree misdemeanor, according to information released by the office of State Attorney Lawson Lamar. Two more people were each charged with a single count of hazing.
Lamar’s office didn’t immediately release the names of those charged, saying they were concerned that doing so might prompt the defendants to flee. One defendant is in custody and authorities across the state and in Georgia were working to arrest the other 12 individuals.
In a nationally televised press conference, Lamar called Champion’s death “homicide by hazing” but said he couldn’t charge the defendants with murder because the death couldn’t be linked to a single act. The maximum prison time for hazing resulting in death is six years.
Lamar also suggested that the investigation was continuing.
“However, let me strongly state that I urge anyone who has facts about this homicide to come forth and tell the whole truth, especially those not charged, because further charges may be forthcoming in the future,” he said.
Champion, 26, was beaten to death in a ritual hazing on board a charter bus during a band trip to Orlando in November. His death prompted university officials to suspend activities of the vaunted marching band while the investigation continued. Since then, two faculty members were recently forced out in connection with another, unrelated hazing incident at the historically black university.
In a joint statement, FAMU Board Chairman Solomon Badger and President James Ammons highlighted steps the school has taken since Champion’s death to crack down on hazing.
“We are vigorously working to eradicate hazing from FAMU and doing everything within our power to ensure an incident like this never happens again,” they said. “Our hearts and our prayers are with the Champion family and the extended FAMU family as we all continue to deal with this tragedy.”
Meanwhile, the attorney for dismissed Marching 100 Director Julian White called again for White to be reinstated.
“Most of the decisive actions that the university has taken since Robert Champion’s tragic death were largely based on Dr. White’s reporting both known and alleged incidents of hazing,” attorney Chuck Hobbs said. ” … Dr. White applauds law enforcement for taking the deliberate steps necessary to bring this case to justice, and is relieved that those responsible for Robert’s death will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The president of the Tallahassee branch of the NAACP is also pushing for White’s reinstatement, according to report on the website of the Tallahassee Democrat.