South Florida Crime
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The last of the eleven college students charged with hazing in the death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion surrendered herself to authorities.
On Sunday Lasherry Codner, 20, turned herself in to jail officials in Orange County. Two of those charged, 20-year old Jessie Basking and 21-year old Benjamin McNamee, were charged and jailed in Miami-Dade.
In all 13 people were charged in Champion’s death. The 11 individuals charged with hazing resulting in a death, a third-degree felony, could face up to nearly six years in prison if convicted. The other two people are facing misdemeanor charges.
Champion’s mother said she was disappointed prosecutors didn’t file more serious charges against the 13 defendants. But Pam Champion says she is glad charges have been filed finally.
The charges come five months after Champion’s death aboard a chartered bus parked outside an Orlando hotel.
Detectives said Champion was hazed by other band members following a performance against a rival school and witnesses told emergency dispatchers Champion was vomiting before he was found unresponsive aboard the bus.
The medical examiner’s office in Orlando ruled that Champion had bruises to his chest, arms, shoulder and back and internal bleeding that caused him to go into shock, which killed him.
Florida’s hazing law was passed in 2005 following the death of another Florida college student. The law defines hazing as any act that endangers the health or safety of a student for the purpose of admission to a school group.
The charges will bring more scrutiny to a culture of hazing at FAMU and other schools. Champion’s death was ruled a homicide by medical examiners, and the case has jeopardized the future of FAMU’s legendary marching band and shaken the school’s Tallahassee campus.
Champion’s parents, Pam and Robert, believe the filing of charges is “bittersweet,” said their attorney, Christopher Chestnut.
“Obviously it’s comforting to know that someone will be held accountable for Robert’s murder, but it’s also disconcerting to think of the impact of the future of these students,” Chestnut said. “This is just unfortunate all the way around.”
Champion’s parents have sued the company that owns the bus where the hazing took place. In a civil lawsuit, Champion’s family alleges that the bus driver stood guard outside the bus while the hazing took place. The bus company owner initially said the bus driver was helping other band members with their equipment when the hazing took place.
FAMU has suspended the band and launched a task force to recommend steps it could take to curtail hazing.
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