Prosecutors suggested Thursday that they are finished with plea deals that mete out light sentences of probation and community service to ex-band members charged in the hazing death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion.
During a plea conference, assistant state attorney Nicole Pegues told Circuit Judge Marc Lubet that "three years [in prison] is too little" for Jessie Baskin and other former members of the Marching 100 band who struck blows during the fatal hazing of Champion.
Witnesses alleged they saw Baskin, 21, kicking Champion during the hazing. He has pleaded not guilty.
The drum major's parents, Pamela and Robert Champion, who participated in the court hearing by telephone from their home in suburban Atlanta, also told the judge they did not want the prison sentence capped at three years as Baskin's lawyer Christopher Smith had hoped.
"What was done was cruel and it's wrong," Champion's mother said. "If we're going to end [hazing], then we need to set an example, [send] a clear message."
If convicted of manslaughter and felony hazing in Champion's death, Baskin would face a maximum term of 15 years in prison, although state sentencing guidelines recommend at least nine years. A judge could hand out a shorter sentence if presented with compelling arguments.
Champion, 26, died Nov. 19, 2011 after a beating on a bus parked at the Rosen Plaza hotel where the iconic band was staying.
The hazing scandal led prosecutors in Orange County to charge 15 band members in Champion's death and forced university officials to suspend the ensemble, known for its flashy, high-energy performances.
Five ex-band members have received probation and community-service sentences, including Champion's fellow drum majors Jonathan Boyce, Shawn Turner and Rikki Wills. A sixth former member, Caleb Jackson, is expected to receive a three-year prison term for his role.
Though Champion was hit repeatedly during the hazing, known as "Crossing Bus C," none of his fellow band members admitted striking him. Prosecutors nonetheless have classified the hazing defendants according to their alleged roles, and most of those awaiting trial fall into the category of "beaters," those who punched or kicked Champion as they tried to prevent him from making his way from the front of the bus to the back.
Shudak@orlandosentinel.com or 407-650-6361. ___