UK & World News
'Hazing' Death: Suspects Hand Themselves In
Eight of the 13 people charged after a US university marching band member was beaten to death in an apparent 'hazing' ritual have voluntarily handed themselves in to police, officials said.
It comes as the parents of the victim, Robert Champion, said the band should be disbanded until there are sweeping changes to prevent similar violence.
Mr Champion, a 26-year-old drum major, collapsed on a Florida A&M University (Famu) band bus outside an Orlando hotel after an American football game in November 2011.
He died after being hit multiple times, according to state attorney Lawson Lamar.
Since authorities were unable to work out which strike ultimately caused his death, they charged 13 people with hazing rather than more serious counts like manslaughter or second-degree murder.
Eleven face third-degree felony charges of "hazing with death," which is punishable under Florida law by a maximum of six years in prison. Two others will face a misdemeanour charge.
Mr Champion's family expressed disappointment that even though a medical examiner ruled his death was a homicide, no one was charged with murder.
Mr Lamar said there was not enough evidence to bring more serious charges.
The victim's parents have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the charter bus driver who allegedly stood guard while the hazing occurred.
They have also called on the Tallahassee university to disband the marching band, which was suspended after the death.
The tragedy has also jeopardised the future of the band, which has performed at the Grammys, presidential inaugurations and Super Bowls and represented the US in Paris at the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution.
Pam Champion, the victim's mother, said: "Famu (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University) can't go on with business as usual. They need to clean house."
Mr Champion's father, Robert Champion Sr, added: "The band should not be on the field until they clean house. Until they get it completely clean.
"There are 400 other students who are also in the band, and the same thing can happen to them."
Mrs Champion said she told prosecutors she was disappointed that the charges were not more severe.
"I did express that I didn't think the charges sent the message that they should send," she said.
The Champion family's lawyer Chris Chestnut said he has obtained evidence that students on the bus and Famu alumni conspired to conceal the beating death, but he declined to reveal any names.
He said: "We have learned there was a calculated conspiracy to cover up Robert Champion's murder.
"We have learned that alumni were communicating with students who were on that bus, telling them how to respond, what to say, what not to say to ensure that no one was arrested and if they were, they would not stand to be charged and convicted for murder."
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