13 face charges in FAMU hazing death - WSMV Channel 4

13 face charges in FAMU hazing death

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Robert Champion died after a hazing incident while on a trip with Florida A&M University's acclaimed Marching 100. (Source: CNN) Robert Champion died after a hazing incident while on a trip with Florida A&M University's acclaimed Marching 100. (Source: CNN)

ORLANDO (RNN) - Nearly six months after medical examiners ruled a Florida A&M University drum major's death a homicide, prosecutors announced they will charge 13 people, a majority of which will face third-degree felony charges.

Twenty misdemeanor counts of hazing have also been filed in unrelated incidents.

Robert Champion died Nov. 19, 2011, after a severe beating during a hazing incident, according to his autopsy report. He was 26.

"His death is not linked to one sole strike, but is attributed to multiple blows," Florida state attorney Lawson Lamar said. "Robert Champion tragically died from being beaten to death."

Lamar would not comment on why only 13 of the 30 people allegedly on the bus at the time of the hazing were facing charges.

Florida law states a person who is accused of hazing which results in death or serious injury can face third-degree felony charges. The charges carry a maximum punishment of six years for those who do not have prior criminal records.

Eleven of the 13 people implicated are charged with felonies.

Lamar declined to release the names of the defendants, as they have yet to be arrested. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said the names of the accused would be released after the arrests were completed.

A representative from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said one person is in custody and another is out of state.

Lamar said that prosecutors decided to pursue felony hazing charges rather than murder charges because of the lower burden of proof associated with them.

"We can prove participation in hazing and a death," he said. "We do not have a blow, or shot, or knife thrust [which would prove murder]."

The charges are a result of more than 1,000 hours of work by police and nearly 50 witness interviews.

Champion collapsed on a bus transporting the FAMU Marching 100 from the Florida Classic football game. He was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

The medical examiner found extensive injuries to his chest, arms, shoulder and back.

The report said Champion had showed "symptoms of fatigue, thirst and weakness prior to the collapse," and that he told people he had lost his vision just before collapsing. He had also vomited as a result of the beating.

Since Champion's death, a number of hazing allegations have surfaced, marring the reputation of FAMU's renowned Marching 100.

Three students were arrested shortly after Champion's death after freshmen Bria Hunter was severely beaten as part of a band hazing ritual. Her thigh bone was broken in the incident.

On Feb. 13, Champion's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner and operator of the charter bus where the hazing took place.

According to the AP, the lawsuit claims the bus driver forced Champion to get back on the bus after he got off to vomit. They've also said they plan to sue the university.

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