FAMU bandmates' charges upgraded in hazing death

Florida A&M Marching 100 Drum Major Robert Champion during a performance at halftime of the game against Howard University at Bragg Memorial Stadium on Oct. 8, 2011 in Tallahassee, Florida. Champion became ill and died after a game on November 19, 2011. AP Photo/Don Juan Moore

ORLANDO, Fla. Twelve former Florida A&M University band members were charged Monday with manslaughter in the 2011 hazing death of a drum major.

Ten of the band members had been charged last May with third-degree felony hazing for the death of 26-year-old Robert Champion, but the state attorney's office said they are adding the charge of manslaughter for each defendant. They also have charged two additional defendants with manslaughter, though they have yet to be arrested.

The second-degree manslaughter charge, which was announced during a status hearing Monday afternoon, carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Champion died in Orlando in November 2011 after he collapsed 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 football game.

Authorities said Champion had bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back and died of internal bleeding. Witnesses told emergency dispatchers that the drum major was vomiting before he was found unresponsive aboard the bus.

Prosecutors had originally filed felony hazing charges because the charges only required that they prove the defendants took part in a hazing that resulted in death. It didn't require them to prove who struck the fatal blows.

CBS News correspondent Mark Strassman reports that Champion's parents have long believed everyone on the bus should be prosecuted.

"They've murdered my son, so they should be held accountable, and at the same time this is the opportunity to set the state and set an example," Pam Champion told CBS News last April.

Two former band members whose cases were resolved last year weren't among those charged Monday. Brian Jones and Ryan Dean, have already been sentenced after pleading no-contest to third-degree felony hazing last year. Both initially pleaded not guilty.

Jones was sentenced last October to six months of community control, which strictly limits his freedom with measures including frequent check-ins with probation officials. He also was given two years of probation and required to perform 200 hours of community service.

Dean was sentenced the following month and received four years of probation and 200 hours of community service.

Judge Marc Lubet conferenced with all the attorneys involved before Monday's hearing and said in court that it was a consensus that because of a witness list that includes more than 100 people, a June trial date was unlikely.

He has set another status hearing in the case for August.

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