On Jan. 9, percussionist Dante Martin, 27, was sentenced to 77 months—more than six years—in jail for manslaughter and felony hazing in the death of Florida A&M University’s 26-year-old drum major Robert D. Champion, Jr., in November 2011.
According to a medical examiner, Champion died of hemorrhagic shock from blunt force trauma after being involved in a ritual known as “Crossing Bus C.” Witnesses said participants were punched, kicked, whipped and hit with drum mallets by 15 to 20 other band members while crossing from the front to the back of the bus. Two other band members were also beaten during this ritual although neither was seriously injured.
This case drew national attention to hazing abuses and forced Florida A&M University to address the hazing culture within the “Marching 100.” The band was suspended for more than a year and resumed performances in the fall of 2013.
Prosecutor Jeff Ashton told reporters that he hopes the conviction sends a message to anyone thinking of hazing. “If you do it and something goes wrong, you’re going to be responsible for it,” he told reporters after the verdict on Oct. 31, 2014.
Ashton told The New York Times: “Tradition didn’t kill Robert Champion. You don’t get to break the law because those who came before you did it.”
Martin, who was the percussion section president, was the first of 14 band members charged in the incident to go on trial. Nine other band members received probation and community service plea deals. One other individual received nearly one year in jail. The three remaining members are scheduled for trial later this year.