Twelve former members of Florida A&M University’s Marching 100 band are being charged with manslaughter for the 2011 hazing death of drum major Robert Champion Ten of the 12 accused were previously charged with felony hazing last May, but the prosecution announced today that the charges have been upgraded to manslaughter. Additionally, two more defendants have been charged with the same crime.
The charges stem from a November 2011 incident that occurred on the band’s bus at the Rosen Plaza hotel in Orlando after Florida A&M played Bethune-Cookman in their annual rivalry football game. It was there that Champion received a heinous beating during the admittedly normal “Crossing Bus C” hazing ritual.
The blunt trauma the 26-year-old received to his chest, arms, shoulder and back caused internal bleeding, which led to his untimely death. Witnesses told emergency dispatchers that Champion was vomiting before he was found unconcious aboard the bus.
While it isn’t immediately clear why State Attorney Jeff Ashton chose to upgrade charges, criminal defense lawyer Michael Grieco, a former felony division chief for the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office, believes prosecutors could be raising the risk to the other defendants “by having a more threatening hammer” in an effort to force a plea deal.
Manslaughter is a second-degree felony in Florida, and if found guilty, the 12 former band members will face up to 15 years in prison.