13 charged in hazing death of FAMU band member Robert Champion

Updated 5:21 PM ET

(CBS/AP) ORLANDO, Fla. - A prosecutor says most of the 13 people charged in the death of Florida A&M university drum major will face a felony hazing charge.

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. and brought more scrutiny to them.

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.

The prosecutor announced the charges at a news conference Wednesday. State Attorney Lawson Lamar says 11 of the 13 people charged will face the felony charge. The others will face a misdemeanor charge.

Lamar says a conviction for felony hazing could bring up to nearly six years in prison.

It was not immediately clear whether those charged were all students or whether they included faculty members or others involved in the road trip.

Their names were being withheld until all of them were arrested. By Wednesday afternoon, two were in custody.

The Leon County sheriff's office says two individuals have been booked for their roles in Champion's death. Sheriff's spokesman James McQuaig said 23-year-old Caleb Jackson and 24-year-old Rikki Wills were booked into the Leon County Jail at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Legal experts had predicted prosecutors may file more serious charges like manslaughter and second-degree murder. The Champion family attorney, Christopher Chestnut, said they were disappointed.

"They had hoped for more serious charges. They were hoping for a stronger message. He was beaten to death," he said.

Prosecutors, however, didn't think they had enough evidence.

"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.

Parents: FAMU hazing was retaliation

The parents of the dead student, Pam and Robert Champion Sr., say any arrests will be five months overdue.

"When someone loses their life because of a crime, they should be punished," Champion Sr. told CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.

"The most important thing is that the example needs to be set," his mother said. "It needs to be an example that sets the stage of what will not be tolerated."

In the hazing ritual, Champion was allegedly kicked, punched and stomped as he ran from the front of the bus to the back. He collapsed and died on his way to the hospital.

After his death, the school's band director admitted its hazing history stretched back four decades.

Chuck Hobbs, the attorney of Dr. Julian White, the band director who is on paid administrative leave, said that his client continues to pray for the Champion family. He also said that White should be reinstated at the university. "We maintain that the evidence we provided following Dr. White's initial termination for alleged incompetence in reporting hazing -- is clearly unfounded by the record evidence. Most of the decisive actions that the university has taken since Robert Champion's tragic death were largely based on Dr. White's reporting both known and alleged incidents of hazing," said Hobbs in a statement Wednesday following the news of the charges.

Champion's parents have sued the bus company, Fabulous Coach Lines, and plan to sue the school.

"They're going to have to clean the house," Champion's mother said. "They're going to have to step up and do what they know is the right thing to do ... Get rid of the filth that's there. Everything is out in the open, so you can't continue business as usual."

Ray Land, the owner of Fabulous Coach Lines, said he was glad to see the charges. He said bus drivers were nearby but not on the bus.

"We feel like the bus did not cause the hazing. The individuals that did the hazing are the ones responsible," he said. "We never had known about this happening or we would not have let it happen."

Champion's death has jeopardized the future of FAMU's legendary marching band, which has performed at the Grammys, presidential inaugurations, Super Bowls and even represented the U.S. in Paris at the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.

Hazing has long been a problem in marching bands, particularly at historically black colleges in the South, where a spot in the band is coveted and revered as much as the sports teams.

On HBCU campuses, band members are often given perks and treated like celebrities. Band nicknames are almost as well-known as the school mascot: The Human Jukebox, The Sonic Boom of the South, and in Florida A&M's case, The Marching 100.

Much of the hazing reported at Florida A&M has involved students trying to get into certain groups within the band. Those who don't make a group were often ostracized.

The university has appointed a task force to investigate its hazing culture and suspended all band activities.

Solomon Badger, chairman of the Florida A&M board of trustees, said the school is doing everything it can to eradicate hazing.

"I hope this wraps its arm around everything we have been plagued with the last six months," Badger said.

In a separate incident at FAMU, three people were charged after alleged hazing ceremonies Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. That's when Bria Shante Hunter said her legs were beaten with fists and a metal ruler to initiate her into the "Red Dawg Order," a band clique for students who hail from Georgia.

Four band members were also arrested earlier this year and charged with hazing in the alleged beatings of five pledges to a marching band club known as the Clones, a group within the band's clarinet section, a police report said.

The hazing took place in "three or four initiation meetings" that began around Sept. 1 in a house about a mile from campus. Five pledges were lined up in order of their height and "forced to exercise, play music, and were either punched, prepped (slapped with both hands on back) and/or paddled," police said.

During the initiations, pledges were forced to give money and were pressured to keep exercising "even after exhaustion."

On Tuesday, a lawyer for two FAMU music professors who allegedly were present during an unrelated hazing of band fraternity pledges in early 2010 said they have been forced out.

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