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First defendant sentenced in Florida A&M hazing case

By Layne Weiss     Oct 22, 2012 in Crime
Orlando - Brian Jones, the first of a dozen defendants waiting to be sentenced in the hazing death of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion, will avoid jail time. Judge Marc Lubet ruled Monday that Jones will spend over two years under "close supervision."
Jones was given six months was given six months of "community control." He will be required to wear an ankle monitor and will receive frequent check-ins from probation officers. Once the six-month period is up, Jones will be on probation for another two years, The AP reports. The 23 year old is also required to complete 200 hours of community service.
In his ruling, Judge Marc Lubet said Jones' role in Champions death was "relatively minimal." Jones did not hit or beat Champion, and Judge Lubet believes he has shown remorse for having being involved in the first place.
Jones had initially pleaded not guilty to third degree felony hazing, but changed his plea to "no contest" on October 9.
Robert Champion died last year at the age of 26. He was a drum major with Florida A&M University's marching band. Investigators concluded that hazing was involved in Champion's death.
FAMU President James Ammons announced the immediate suspension of all performances and engagements of any band on campus until the investigation into Champion's death was completed.
The investigation into Champion's death confirmed that the death was a result of hazing. In May, thirteen people were charged. Eleven of the thirteen were charged with 3rd degree felony hazing resulting in death.
One band member is facing a misdemeanor hazing charge, The AP reports.
When the initial investigation into Champion's death began, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings explained that any death that results from hazing is a "third degree felony," and any participants can be "criminally charged," CNN reported last November.
According to Champion's parents, his death may have been related to his anti-hazing stance.
It was later discovered that Champion was gay, but it was not clear whether that had anything to do with his death.
Champion died on November 19, 2011 after becoming ill and being taken to the hospital. Initially, the death was ruled a suicide, but on December 16, 2011, the death was ruled a homicide. The official cause of death was a "hemorrhage shock," which is caused by "excessive" internal bleeding. Orange County officials said in a statement that Champion sustained "blunt force trauma during a hazing incident."
Last month, Florida A&M University issued a statement saying that Robert Champion's death was his own fault. They argued that Champion had chosen to take part in the hazing that ultimately led to his own death.
The university said it should be absolved of any liability in Champion's death. Champion's parents sued FAMU arguing that adult students should not be blamed for their own deaths even if they take part in hazing. Despite Florida state law actually backing this claim, FAMU refused to accept any liability.
Hazing law attorney, Doug Fierberg said that one could argue that by joining the band, Champion "understood there might be some hazing," but that's not a defense" for FAMU.
The Champion family's attorney, Christopher Chestnut told CNN that the aim of the lawsuit was not to "hurt Florida A&M University," but rather to ensure that all students are safe."
Chestnut also said that the university refused to accept that hazing in the school's band is a huge problem. "Until they accept that, they can't correct it."
Champion's parents were in the courtroom Monday for Brian Jones' sentencing. Pam Champion, Robert's mother told The AP that she was initially disappointed with the judge's ruling, but she understands and admires Jones for "taking responsibility."
"No family should have to go through what you've gone through," Brian Jones told Champions' parents in a tearful, heartfelt apology.
Pam Champion said she would be willing to have Mr. Jones speak on behalf of the Robert D. Champion Drum Major for Change Foundation, which she started last year in the fight against hazing.
Robert Champion Sr. shared the same sentiments as his wife. He was a bit disappointed by the ruling, but like his wife, he admires Brian Jones for stepping up.
More about Hazing, Florida A&M, Robert Champion, Brian Jones, Sentencing
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