Justice Approaches for Robert Champion
Thirteen people are being charged in the hazing death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion.
State Attorney Lawson Lamar made the announcement Wednesday at a press conference outside the Courthouse downtown Orlando.
“The death of 22-year-old FA&M student Robert Champion is nothing short of an American tragedy,” Lamar said.
Of the 13 charged, Lamar said 11 are being charged with felony hazing, resulting in death which are third-degree felonies. He also said that in cases where defendants do not have a prior criminal record the maximum punishment is 6 years.
Twenty misdeamour hazing counts have also been filed which involve different victims who were not seriously injured.
Lamar said that no names or specifics of the charges will be announced today, given that individuals are still at large.
The state attorney said, given the number of defendants, prosecuting the case will be labor intensive and time consuming, but attaining justice for champion, his family and the university is paramount.
Asked why more serious charges such as murder or manslaughter were not brought against the perpetrators, Lamar said that, “the testimony obtained to date does not support a charge of murder in that it does not contain the elements of murder. We can prove participation in hazing and a death.”
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, who also addressed the media said, some 48 interviews had been conducted and over 1,000 man-hours had been devoted to the Champion investigation. Twenty-seven OCSO personnel had worked on the case.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge Joyce Dawley said, currently, teams from FDLE and OCSO were looking for the individuals around the state, and as they are booked into various county jail facilities, their names and specific charges will be made public.
Champion, 26, died in Orlando in November 2011, after the Florida Classic game. The Medical Examiner, ruled his death a homicide, after an autopsy revealed there was “hemorrhagic shock due to soft tissue hemorrhage due to blunt force trauma sustained during a hazing incident.”
Since Champion’s death, several investigations have been launched, including one by FDLE. It has been revealed that FAMU has a long history of hazing.
While Lamar described FAMU as a “fine university,” he noted there were some aspects that “we would rather not acknowledge.”
“Hazing is a term for bullying,” he said. “It’s bullying with a tradition–a tradition we cannot bear in America…. Hazing will continue to happen, out of sight until something like this (Robert Champion’s death) happens.”