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13 people charged in death of Florida A&M band member

11 face felony hazing charge

FAMU-Hazing

Robert Champion, a drum major in Florida A&M University's Marching 100 band, performs during halftime of a football game in Orlando, Fla. Thirteen people face criminal charges in the hazing death Champion aboard a band bus in Orlando last fall.

The Tampa Tribune Enlarge

ORLANDO, Fla. — Thirteen people were charged Wednesday for their roles in the hazing death of Florida A&M university drum major who was severely beaten during a ritual, a prosecutor said.

The charges were announced more than five months after 26-year-old Robert Champion died aboard a chartered bus parked outside an Orlando hotel following a performance against a rival school. The case has exposed a harsh tradition among marching bands at some colleges around the U.S.

Champion was severely beaten by band members in November and had with bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back, authorities said. Witnesses told emergency dispatchers Champion was vomiting before he was found unresponsive aboard the bus.

State Attorney Lawson Lamar said 11 of the 13 people will face a hazing resulting death charge, a third-degree felony. If convicted, they could face up to nearly six years in prison. The other two people will face a misdemeanor charges.

The names of those charged will not be released until they are all arrested, Lamar said. It was also not immediately clear whether they were all band members.

Legal experts had predicted prosecutors may file more serious charges like manslaughter and second-degree murder.

"The testimony obtained to date does not support a charge of murder, in that it does not contain the elements of murder," Lamar said. "We can 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."

Florida's hazing law was passed in 2005 following the death of University of Miami student Chad Meredith four years earlier. Meredith was drunk and died trying to swim across a lake at the behest of fraternity brothers. No criminal charges were filed in his case, but a civil jury ordered the fraternity Kappa Sigma to pay Meredith's parents $12 million.

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