Ex-FAMU band member gets 6 years in prison for 2011 hazing death

Posted at 9:50 AM, Jan 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-12 09:50:13-05

(CNN) — A former Florida A&M University band member has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for organizing the hazing that killed drum major Robert Champion Jr.

Dante Martin, 27, was one of 15 people charged in the 2011 hazing incident. Prosecutors said he organized the brutal initiation, known as “Crossing Bus C,” that band members had to go through.

In October, Martin was found guilty of manslaughter and felony hazing. On Friday, an Orange County circuit court judge sentenced him to 77 months.

“I honestly am ashamed that I can even remotely be a part or associated with anything that could take the life of a human being,” Martin, who didn’t testify at trial, said in court Friday. “It hurts me. I’m terribly sorry.”

Champion, 26 of Decatur, Georgia, died after he was beaten aboard a school bus after a football game in Orlando, Florida. The initiation requires pledges to run down the center of the bus while being punched, kicked and assaulted by senior members, band members have said.

A medical examiner ruled Champion’s death a homicide, saying he suffered multiple blunt trauma blows and internal bleeding from the beating. Champion died in the parking lot within an hour of the assault.

FAMU’s famed marching band, known as the Marching 100, was suspended for the 2012-13 school year after Champion’s death. The college pledged to make reforms and address hazing both on and off campus.

FAMU is one of the nation’s top university marching bands, famous for its elaborate dance formations and innovative style.

In court Friday, both Champion’s mother and father addressed Martin.

“I just want to let you know, I forgive you. I don’t hate you at all,” mother Pam Champion said. “And I don’t want you shedding tears for my family because my fight is not over. My fight is not with you.”

Nine former band members have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and received community service and probation. Three others go on trial later this year.

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