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Ex-band member sentenced in the hazing death of gay Florida A&M University drum major

Jessie Baskin sentenced to 51 weeks in jail, five years of probation, and 300 hours of community service for participating in the 2011 beating death of Robert Champion
Robert Champion Jr., Florida A&M University drum major who died from injuries sustained in a 2011 November hazing incident

A former Florida A&M band member will spend 51 weeks in jail for the hazing death of gay drum major Robert Champion.

Yesterday, 28 March, Jessie Baskin heard his punishment after a three-hour hearing that included character witnesses and letters  for leniency.

This past November the 22-year-old pleaded no contest to manslaughter charges and faced nine years prison time.

'I've sentenced a hundred people to life in prison. This is one of the hardest sentences that I've ever had to deal with,' Judge Marc Lubet said, as reported by the Associated Press. 'No matter what I do, I can't bring Robert Champion back.'

In addition to the 51 weeks, Baskin was sentenced to five years of probation and 300 hours of community service.

Champion was 26 when, in 2011 November, he was subjected to a brutal hazing ritual called 'crossing bus c.' It involved band members beating him with punches, kicks, and drumsticks while on a bus parked in a Orlando, Florida hotel parking lot.

According to the state attorney, Champion sustained bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder, and back. He died of internal bleeding while still aboard the bus.

'You did wrong ... you must pay the consequences for what you did,' Pam Champion, the victim's mother, said to Baskin during the hearing.

Before sentencing, Baskin addressed the victim's parents.

'I apologize that this happened. I apologize for how this has affected you,' he said. 'I'm not over it. It has affected me too. Robert was a good man and we know that .... We did not intend for this to happen.'

According to the Associated Press, 15 former band members have been charged with manslaughter and hazing in Champion's death.

Seven have been sentenced to combinations of probation and community service. One other defendant has pleaded no contest to manslaughter and awaits sentencing.

Pam Champion, who started an anti-hazing foundation in her son's name, thought Baskin's sentence was too light.

'Clearly the sentence doesn't fit what was done, including another opportunity to send a strong message,'  she said. 'We have to talk to everyone, because what happened at that school was allowed to happen...But the message of the foundation is to say "No more."'

For information about the Robert D. Champion Drum Major for Change Foundation, please click here.

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