- Changes with Fraternal Law
- Ringleader of Marching Band Hazing Sentenced to 77 Months in Prision
- Maine Supreme Court Hears Case on National Fraternity Liability
- In Boston, City Officials Use a New Tool to Regulate Fraternities
- UVA: A Clear Case for Due Process
Newsletter > January 2015 > "Ringleader of Marching Band Hazing Sentenced to 77 Months in Prision"
Ringleader of Marching Band Hazing Sentenced to 77 Months in Prision
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Champion, the Drum Major for the Florida A&M University Marching 100 Band, died on November 19, 2011 after “Crossing Bus C.” That exercise, evidently practice in place for many years, involved punching and hitting a band member as they came down the bus aisle from the front to the back of the bus. Reports indicate that Champion had been hit more than 100 times.
Just shy of three years after his death, on October 31, 2014, a Florida jury convicted Dante Martin, the alleged ring leader of the hazing ritual that ended in Champion’s death, of manslaughter. While the conviction carried with it up to 22 years in prison, Martin was sentenced earlier this month to 77 months in prison. Nine other band members who had less involvement in organizing or directing the events that led to Champion’s death have plead guilty and received sentences of probation and community service; another is serving a year in jail. Three others await trial.
Following the jury verdict, the Orlando Sentinel quoted State Attorney Jeff Ashton, who prosecuted the case as saying:
“Tradition didn’t kill Robert Champion. Tradition isn’t to blame for Robert Champion’s death. You don’t get to break the law because those who came before you did it. That may work when you are ten, but it doesn’t work when you’re an adult – an adult who has the ability to say ‘no … I won’t be a part of this barbarous ritual any more’.”
It may be easy for some to write off Champion’s death and “Crossing Bus C” as uniquely vicious conduct, but it was no more intended to result in Champion’s death than have been many other incidents of hazing. But whether the deaths or injury are brought about as a result of vicious physical beating or alcohol poisoning makes little difference. The victim is still dead. Champion’s father, who along with his wife, Champion’s mother, attended the jury verdict, said afterwards, according to the Sentinel: “We hope people will get the message that hazing is cruel … and it needs to stop now.”
That message needs to resonate loudly. While Greek groups are not the only groups in which hazing is written off as a “tradition,” it has no place in organizations devoted to brotherhood and sisterhood. At one time, society may have been more forgiving and written off hazing-related deaths or injuries as unintended tragedies; no more. In at least forty states, it is a crime. And when it results in serious injury or death, the perpetrators are being prosecuted; some will go to jail, perhaps, like Dante Martin, for a long time. The lives of both the victims and the perpetrators will forever be altered. There is no reason for that if Mr. Champion’s message is heeded. Hazing needs to stop now.