FAMU settles wrongful death suit with drum major’s family

Filed under FLORIDA, NEWS

Champion’s parents get settlement and apology in 2011 hazing death

FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

Florida A&M University (FAMU) has settled a lawsuit with the family of Robert Champion over the hazing death of the “Marching 100’’ drum major in 2011.

150925_florida01Announced on Sept. 18 by FAMU spokeswoman Lisa Brock, the settlement includes $1.1 million and an apology.

According to the settlement, an insurance company is to pay $800,000 to Champion’s estate and the university will pay $300,000 through the Florida Department of Financial Services. That’s the maximum allowed without the Legislature’s approval. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., the insurance company, insured the hotel where the hazing occurred. The settlement ends the civil case.

In November 2011, the 26-year-old Champion died after being hazed in a band ritual on a bus at the Rosen Plaza hotel in Orlando. The band had stayed at the hotel during the Florida Classic weekend, the annual HBCU in-state rival event against Bethune-Cookman University. Champion died after band members beat him with fists and boards after the Florida Classic football game on Nov. 19.

The parents of Robert Champion Jr. – mother Pam Champion, second right, and Robert Champion Sr., father, right – listen as the verdict is read on Oct. 31, 2014, after a jury found Dante Martin, a former member of the “Marching 100’’ guilty of manslaughter.(RED HUBER/ORLANDO SENTINEL/TNS)

The parents of Robert Champion Jr. – mother Pam Champion, second right, and Robert Champion Sr., father, right – listen as the verdict is read on Oct. 31, 2014, after a jury found Dante Martin, a former member of the “Marching 100’’ guilty of manslaughter.
(RED HUBER/ORLANDO SENTINEL/TNS)

Plaque on campus
FAMU also is to add a commemorative plaque in Champion’s memory at a location on campus – the university’s band room, at the band practice field called “The Patch,’’ or another site to be chosen by Champion’s family.

A portion of the apology issued by FAMU states, “On behalf of the FAMU Board of Trustees, please accept our sincere condolences and sympathies for the loss of your son, Robert Champion Jr., and please know that we are deeply sorry for your family’s and the world’s loss of such a fine and outstanding son, brother, musician and individual.

“We greatly appreciate the opportunity to honor Robert’s memory and spirit to help inspire and motivate people everywhere to forever eradicate hazing from our society once and for all.”

Criminal charges
The drum major’s death led to the ouster of then-university President James Ammons and longtime marching band director Julian White, the band’s suspension and criminal charges against 15 former members of the band, including Champion’s fellow drum majors.

All but four of those charged in Champion’s death received sentences of community service and probation.

Dante Martin, the senior member of the band’s percussion section and the student leader accused of organizing the fatal hazing, received the harshest sentence, a six-year prison term that his lawyers are appealing.

Champion’s death led to criminal charges against 15 former members of the band, which included his fellow drum majors. Most of those charged received probation and community service. The harshest sentence went to Dante Martin, considered the band ritual organizer, who has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for manslaughter and felony hazing.

Information from the Orlando Sentinel/TNS was used in this report.

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