Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Charges expected today in hazing death at FAMU

TALLAHASSEE — At least five people will face criminal charges in the hazing death of a Florida A&M University drum major aboard a band bus in Orlando last fall, authorities said Tuesday.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings told the Associated Press that multiple defendants will be charged in 26-year-old Robert Champion's death, although he refused to say what the charges are.

Prosecutors have built five cases against defendants with charges ranging from misdemeanors to felony charges, said Danielle Tavernier, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office in Orlando. She refused to specify the charges pending an announcement by prosecutors today.

Prosecutors sometime cluster defendants by case, meaning the number of defendants could be higher than five, said Bob Dekle, a University of Florida law professor.

The pending charges will bring more scrutiny to a culture of hazing at FAMU and other schools. Champion's death was ruled a homicide by medical examiners, and the case has jeopardized the future of FAMU's legendary marching band and shaken the school's Tallahassee campus.

"The family's position is if indeed there are charges tomorrow, it's been a long time in coming," Christopher Chestnut, an attorney for Champion's parents, said Tuesday evening.

Chestnut said family members are disappointed that authorities didn't give them enough advance notice to travel from Georgia to Florida to attend a press conference today to announce the results of the investigation. But he said the family is also "thankful there is some movement on this case after five months of delay."

No arrests had been made by Tuesday afternoon.

Detectives say Champion was hazed on Nov. 19 by other band members on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel, following a performance.

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