12 charged with manslaughter in FAMU hazing death

11:44 PM, Mar 4, 2013   |    comments
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Robert Champion

PARRISH, Florida - It was supposed to be the show-stopping performance of a lifetime by Florida A & M University's Marching 100 in Orlando at the Florida Classic. But before it was all over, 26-year-old drum major Robert Champion was dead of internal bleeding.

Champion collapsed in November 2011 following what prosecutors say was a savage beating during a hazing ritual. It happened on a bus parked in a hotel parking lot after Florida A & M played Bethune-Cookman in their annual rivalry game.

On Monday, 12 band members were charged with manslaughter in the case. Ten band members were charged last May with third-degree felony hazing for Champion's death.

Champion loved the band so much that his parents thought it was a fitting tribute to have them marched at his funeral. Friends and fellow band members say he loved playing the clarinet, loved being a drum major, and loved being a Rattler.

His family says he saw one of the band's heart-stopping performances when he was just five years old and knew he had to be in the band.

One of the people who faced a charge in Champion's death is Brian Jones of Parrish. Jones turned himself in on a felony hazing resulting in death charge last year. He plead no contest and was sentenced to two years of supervised probation and 200 hundred hours of community service.

10 News tried to get his reaction to learning he would not face a manslaughter charge in the case, but no one would answer the door. Jones has maintained his innocence all along. In court documents, a detective says to him, "And you did not get involved in any of the activities?"

Jones answers, "No sir."

In court documents, he went on to tell detectives that he was on Bus "C," but wasn't part of the hazing ritual that cost Champion his life. Investigators didn't seem to believe him, asking him to explain why his name came up as being involved in the incident.

Other band members told detectives the goal of the hazing ritual was for Champion to walk from the front of the bus to touch the back of the bus while being hit and punched. One band member, Keon Hollis, told investigators, "They were using hands and straps."

Champion passed out, came to, and complained that he couldn't breath and couldn't see, even though his eyes were wide open, according to band member Johnathan Boyce. He explained that it was dark out and no lights were on inside the bus.

Champion was carried to the front of the bus, and band director Dr. Julian White says he arrived with paramedics. But by then, the young man who dreamed his whole life of being in the Marching 100 was dead.

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