Thirteen people involved in the fatal hazing of a Florida A&M University student have been charged for their roles in the act.
State Attorney Lawson Lamar announced that 11 of the 13 people will face third-degree felony charges, for the death of Robert Champion, and could spend up to six years behind bars, while the remaining suspects received misdemeanor charges. “I have come to believe that hazing is a form of bullying,” Lamar said during a press conference. “It's bullying with a tradition.” Champion was a member of the schools' marching band, and was severely beaten during a hazing ritual last November. The 26-year-old sustained injuries to his chest, shoulders, arms, and back, and vomited before dying. After the incident FAMU put the lid on band camps, and other recruitment opportunities.
Prosecutors are expected to call for those charged to face either second-degree murder or manslaughter, but according to Lamar there is not enough evidence to warrant a harsher penalty. “The testimony obtained to date does not support a charge of murder, in that it does not contain the elements of murder,” he said. “We can't 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.”
After hearing the charges would be brought against his attackers, Champion's mother, Pam, was unhappy with the outcome. “I'm a little disappointed that it wasn't a harsher penalty considering the case,” she said. “We need a federal law in place with harsh and stiff penalties to deter this. We need to educate our students to the consequences.” Following his death, the Champion family founded the Robert D. Champion Drum Major for Change Foundation, and non-profit organization aimed at putting an end to hazing rituals.
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