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March 5, 2013

12 charged with manslaughter

ORLANDO, Fla. — Twelve former Florida A&M University band members were charged Monday with manslaughter in the 2011 hazing death of a drum major.

Ten of the band members had been charged last May with third-degree felony hazing for the death of 26-year-old Robert Champion, but the state attorney’s office said they are adding the charge of manslaughter for each defendant. They also have charged two additional defendants with manslaughter, though they have yet to be arrested.

The second-degree manslaughter charge announced during an afternoon status hearing carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Champion died in Orlando in November 2011 after he collapsed following what prosecutors say was a savage beating during a hazing ritual. It happened on a bus parked in a hotel parking lot after Florida A&M played Bethune-Cookman in their annual rivalry football game.

Authorities said Champion had bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back and died of internal bleeding. Witnesses told emergency dispatchers that the drum major was vomiting before he was found unresponsive aboard the bus.

Christopher Chestnut, an attorney for Champion’s parents, said Pam and Robert Champion Sr. were pleased with Ashton’s decision to upgrade the charges.

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