Court Cases I WCTV Eyewitness News: Tallahassee, Thomasville, Valdosta

Marching 100 Hazing Charges Upgraded to Manslaughter

By: Julie Montanaro; Garin Flowers Email
By: Julie Montanaro; Garin Flowers Email
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By: Gina Pitisci

Orlando, Fla. -- The parents of FAMU drum major, Robert Champion are applauding manslaughter charges just filed in their son's death, yet defense attorneys are questioning the timing of it all.

"The word hazing itself does not depict what has been done to my son or any other individual," Pam Champion, Drum Major Robert Champion's Mother, said.

Robert Champion's parents held a press conference in Atlanta and praised the state attorney's decision to upgrade the charges against the Marching 100 members accused in his death.

"There were individuals who conspired to cause bodily harm to Robert Champion that resulted in his death. That's manslaughter," Christopher Chestnut, Champion Family Attorney, said.

"When you hear the term felony hazing causing death and then manslaughter, I think a jury would immediately think, oh, this is something much worse," Craig J. Brown, Aaron Golson's Attorney, said.

Defense attorney Craig Brown represents Aaron Golson, one of the men accused in Champion's death. He was surprised to see the charges upped after so long, and thinks prosecutors are putting pressure on the band members to accept pleas that include time behind bars.

"I think there's a new state attorney who is there to prove a point that he is going to be tough on crime, although I don't think that this was the venue to do it in," Brown said.


By: Garin Flowers

Prosecutors in Orange County, FL have decided to charge twelve former band members with charges of manslaughter. That's a second degree felony, and students and staff at FAMU are reacting to this news.

It's been more than a year since the hazing death of Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion.

Former band members arrested in the incident, appeared in court Monday afternoon. They received news that their charges were upgraded.

In May, ten band members were charged with hazing causing death. That's punishable by up to five years. But, now their charges have been upgraded to manslaughter, a second degree felony...punishable by up to 15 years behind bars.

Prosecutors have also charged two additional defendants with manslaughter, making it twelve people.

"You gone live and learn on that one, it was a real big shock," said Willie Bradwell, FAMU Student.

Robert Champion died November of 2011 after a hazing ritual on the band bus. This was in Orlando during the weekend of the FAMU vs. Bethune Cookman rivalry football game.

"In regards to student life it's been very stagnant, very dormant right now because you know regardless of what the details of the case is, a man lost his life, a man lost his life and we have to ensure that," Anthony Siders, FAMU Student Body President, said.


By Julie Montanaro
March 4, 2013
4:45 p.m.

Defense attorney Bill Sharpe says he got an email from the state attorney's office this afternoon notifying him that charges against his client, Rikki Wills, would be upgraded to manslaughter.

We are trying to reach a spokeswoman in the State Attorney's Office in Orlando for more information.

Sharpe says he is still in "trial mode" and either way Wills wants a jury of his peers to decide if he committed a crime.


By Julie Montanaro
March 4, 2013
2 p.m.

Tallahassee, FL - Charges against the remaining defendants in the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion have been upgraded to manslaughter, according to one of the defense attorneys on the case.

A court hearing is underway in Orlando right now.

Ten band members are still facing charges in connection with Champion's death.

They were initially charged with hazing causing death which is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Now, charges have been upgraded to manslaughter which is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Two other band members, Ryan Dean and Bryan Jones, entered no contest pleas last year and were sentenced to probation and community service.


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