13 people charged in FAMU hazing death of drum major Robert Champion

5:11 PM, May 2, 2012   |    comments
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MORE COVERAGE OF THE FAMU HAZING CASE

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- At a press conference in front of the Orange County courthouse  this afternoon, State Attorney Lawson Lamar announced 13 people will be charged with the death of Robert Champion, FAMU's drum major.

The Leon County sheriff's office says two individuals have been booked for their roles in the death of a former Florida A&M drum major who died after a hazing ritual last November.

Sheriff's 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.

But Champion's family's attorney says the charges are not what the family wanted to hear.

"They are disappointed. Bitter sweet day. It's their position that their son was murdered," said Attorney Christopher Chestnut.
Most of the 13 people will be charged with what's called "hazing by death," a third degree felony.   That means the state has to prove two things: participating in a hazing and a death.

"Why not a stronger charge; like murder or manslaughter?  The testimony obtained to date does not support a charge or murder that it does not contain elements of murder. We can prove participation in hazing and a death. We do not have a blow, a shot, or a knife thrust that killed Champion.  It's an aggregate of things that fit the Florida statute," said Lamar.

But Champion's family attorney is concerned that the case will be hard to prove.

"It'll be a tough prosecution. A lot of physical evidence was compromised early on. Buses were allowed to leave Orlando and that's where the murder took place.  Witnesses were allowed to go back to school to Tallahassee and corroborate their statements," said Chestnut.

Detectives say Champion was hazed by band members following a performance, and witnesses told emergency dispatchers Champion was vomiting before he was found unresponsive aboard the bus.

Chestnut also says the bus driver is not among those charged.
The medical examiner's office says Champion had bruises to his chest, arms, shoulder and back. His internal bleeding caused him to go into shock, which killed him.

"It's a difficult time for them. But they are hopeful this will prevent hazing from occurring again. Mrs. Champion is concerned about the message this sends out today, that there are no murder charges," said Chestnut.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

First Coast News

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