Two years after the death of FAMU bandmember Robert Champion exposed a brutal subculture of hazing and tarnished the famed band’s sterling reputation, 12 members of the band were charged with manslaughter on Monday.
The 10 had been charged with hazing, a third-degree felony, last spring. The Sentinel said it was not immediately clear why State Attorney Jeff Ashton decided to upgrade charges.
The felony hazing charges had drawn complaints from Champion's family, who said more severe charges were called for.
Champion, 26, died in November 2011 after enduring a hazing ritual conducted by other band members on a bus outside a hotel in Orlando where Florida A&M had played its archrival, Bethune Cookman, in football. An autopsy report showed that Champion had bruises all over his body and died from internal bleeding.
Prosecutors don’t usually upgrade charges on a whim, so it will be interesting to see whether any developments in the coming days or months shed light on the district attorney’s decision to suddenly pursue manslaughter charges. There were originally only ten students charged, and the inclusion of another two students is certainly intriguing. If convicted, the 12 students face up to 15 years in prison.
This has been a long, drawn out process that has weighted heavily on not only the families of those involved but on the FAMU campus as well. The FAMU Marching 100 have been suspended since Champion's death and last month, the university abruptly cancelled its decision to announce a new band director after they were turned down by Jorim Reid of North Carolina Central University.