Five months after Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion Jr. died following a pummeling by fellow members of the marching band, 13 people have been charged in his death.
The death of the 26-year-old Champion, who was gay, has brought about a focus on college hazing rituals. The beating took place aboard a chartered bus parked outside of a Orlando hotel after a performance.
Eleven are charged with hazing resulting in death which is a felony. Two others face misdemeanor charges. The felony and misdemeanor offenses could result in nearly six years in prison if convicted.
More serious charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter were not pursued.
‘I thought it should send a harsher message,’ the victim’s mother, Pam Champion, said in an interview with CNN after the charges were announced.
State Attorney Lawson Lamar told the Associated Press that the investigation did not find evidence to support as charge of murder.
‘We can prove participation in hazing and a death,’ he said. ‘We do not have a blow or a shot or a knife thrust that killed Mr. Champion.’
Champion had bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back and died of internal bleeding while still on the bus.
‘The death … is nothing short of an American tragedy, Lamar said. ‘No one should have expected that his college experience would include being pummeled to death.’
Witnesses have said the victim might have been targeted because he opposed the routine hazing that went on in the marching band or because he was gay.