ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Florida A&M marching band member Brian Jones was given probation and community service Monday in the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.
Jones, 23, the first of a dozen band members charged in Champion's death to be sentenced, was given two years of probation and is to perform 200 hours of community service, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The newspaper said he also is to complete six months of community control, which could involve wearing an ankle monitor.
Jones, who had pleaded no contest to a felony hazing count, faced a maximum of five years in prison, but Orange County Circuit Judge Marc Lubet found his involvement in the fatal hazing "rather minimal" and told him his life was worth saving, the Sentinel said.
"Mercy bears richer fruit than strict justice," the judge said, quoting Abraham Lincoln.
Champion's mother, Pamela Champion, saw it differently, calling the hazing an act of murder.
"You will always know your part in what you've done," she said to Jones during the sentencing hearing. "It will haunt you."
Jones apologized to the Champions for his part in the drum major's death.
"Hazing is a completely inexcusable thing," he said. "It went further than anybody would ever have imagined or wanted or thought it would go."
Champion, 26, died Nov. 19 from hemorrhagic shock after being beaten aboard a band bus in Orlando after a football game.
The judge forbade Jones from having any contact with the other 11 defendants, who are to go to trial next year.