The parents of Robert Champion, a Florida A&M drum major in the famous "Marching 100," are calling for band's breakup until its alleged hazing culture is stomped out.
They say charges filed against 16 members of the marching band don't go far enough and alleged that a "calculated conspiracy" attempted to cloud the circumstances of his death and protect band members.
Champion collapsed on a chartered bus outside the team's Orlando hotel and died Nov. 19, allegedly from injuries sustained during a hazing ritual. He was covered in cuts and bruises following a beating with no known motive. The Associated Press reports that one witness saw Champion vomiting before he was found unresponsive on the bus.
Christopher Chestnut, the Champion family's attorney, said in an Atlanta news conference today that hazing charges filed five months after Champion's death points to conspiracy.
It did not take five months to figure out who murdered Robert Champion. This is not a murder mystery. There is no excuse for the lack of accountability. We have learned that there was a calculated conspiracy to cover up Robert Champion's murder. We have heard that alumni were communicating with students on that bus, telling them how to respond, what to say, what not to say in order to ensure that no one would be arrested and charged for murder. That is simply inexcusable.
Chestnut said he has statements that will prove the allegations.
The AP reports 11 defendants were charged with hazing resulting in death, a felony, and misdemeanor offenses that all together could bring nearly six years in prison. Two others face misdemeanor charges.
Champion's mother, Pam Champion, told Anderson Cooper Wednesday night that felony hazing charges don't approach justice for her son's death.
"My first reaction is no I was very disappointed in hearing what the charges would be..." she said, "my husband and I both had been anticipating something that was a little more harsh."
She added that they had expected murder or manslaughter charges, and Chestnut said they family will "absolutely, unequivocally" sue FAMU.
Pam Champion and her husband described the university has a filthy house that needed cleaning.
Robert Champion Sr. said the university "dropped the ball" when the band was allowed back to school and when the university failed to appropriately discipline students involved.
Ultimately, Chesnut says, the case shows how deeply hazing is entrenched in the culture of FAMU.
"We gotta stop the hazing, we gotta stop it all," Chesnut told reporters.
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