Champion's Mother: FAMU band should remain suspended

May 4, 2012

Most of the people charged in the hazing death of a Florida A & M University drum major have been taken into custody. Florida Public Radio’s Lynn Hatter reports the arrests come after state law enforcement authorities announced charges against 13 people on Wednesday.

The charges come almost six months after FAMU Marching 100 band Drum Major Robert Champion died after being beaten in a hazing ritual aboard a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel. Now state law enforcement authorities are busy taking in suspects. 

“We know that three of them are out of state. Two are in Georgia and one is in Delaware. So we will work with local law enforcement if we need to,” said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger. She says the agency has been in touch with those charged and their attorneys.

Eleven out of the 13 people charged in the Champion case are facing 3rd degree felonies. Two others face misdemeanors. Under Florida law, hazing resulting in death carries a maximum of six years in prison. 

But Champion’s mother, Pam Champion, says that not a stiff enough penalty. The family says their son was murdered, and they want the consequences to fit the crime. But state attorney Lawson Lamar says the state couldn’t charge harsher penalties, because there was no single blow that killed Champion, and, because his death was clearly linked to hazing activity.

Meanwhile, Pam Champion says the Marching 100 band should be permanently disbanded. “We have to examine these people’s mindset. The mindset. So we need to clean house,” she said.

 In his first comments since the arrests were announced, Florida Governor Rick Scott expressed sympathy for both Champion’s family, and the University as a whole, which has been shaken by Champion’s death. But Scott stopped short of agreeing that the Marching 100 band should go away forever.

 “You know, the band has a great history, but we can’t afford to lose another individual like Robert Champion,” Scott told reporters Thursday.

The Champion case has exposed a series of hazing incidents within the university’s storied band program. At least two of the people that have been arrested were Champion’s fellow drum majors.

Meanwhile, Florida A&M University is still grappling with the fallout from Champion’s death and other hazing-incidents that have implicated faculty members as well.