May 2, 2012 1:51 PM
13 charged in hazing death of FAMU band member Robert Champion
Play CBS News Video
Updated 5:21 PM ET
(CBS/AP) ORLANDO, Fla. - A prosecutor says most of the 13 people charged in the death of Florida A&M university drum major will face a felony hazing charge.
The charges were announced more than five months after 26-year-old Robert Champion died aboard a chartered bus parked outside an Orlando hotel following a performance against a rival school. The case has exposed a harsh tradition among marching bands at some colleges around the U.S. and brought more scrutiny to them.
Champion was severely beaten by band members in November and had with bruises on his chest, arms, shoulder and back, authorities said. Witnesses told emergency dispatchers Champion was vomiting before he was found unresponsive aboard the bus.
The prosecutor announced the charges at a news conference Wednesday. State Attorney Lawson Lamar says 11 of the 13 people charged will face the felony charge. The others will face a misdemeanor charge.
Lamar says a conviction for felony hazing could bring up to nearly six years in prison.
It was not immediately clear whether those charged were all students or whether they included faculty members or others involved in the road trip.
Their names were being withheld until all of them were arrested. By Wednesday afternoon, two were in custody.
The Leon County sheriff's office says two individuals have been booked for their roles in Champion's death. Sheriff's spokesman James McQuaig said 23-year-old Caleb Jackson and 24-year-old Rikki Wills were booked into the Leon County Jail at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Legal experts had predicted prosecutors may file more serious charges like manslaughter and second-degree murder. The Champion family attorney, Christopher Chestnut, said they were disappointed.
"They had hoped for more serious charges. They were hoping for a stronger message. He was beaten to death," he said.
Prosecutors, however, didn't think they had enough evidence.
"The testimony obtained to date does not support a charge of murder, in that it does not contain the elements of murder," Lamar said. "We can prove participation in hazing and a death. We do not have a blow or a shot or a knife thrust that killed Mr. Champion. It is an aggregation of things which exactly fit the Florida statute as written by the Legislature."
Florida's hazing law was passed in 2005 following the death of University of Miami student Chad Meredith four years earlier. Meredith was drunk and died trying to swim across a lake at the behest of fraternity brothers. No criminal charges were filed in his case, but a civil jury ordered the fraternity Kappa Sigma to pay Meredith's parents $12 million.
Parents: FAMU hazing was retaliation
The parents of the dead student, Pam and Robert Champion Sr., say any arrests will be five months overdue.
"When someone loses their life because of a crime, they should be punished," Champion Sr. told CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann.
"The most important thing is that the example needs to be set," his mother said. "It needs to be an example that sets the stage of what will not be tolerated."