Manslaughter charges in FAMU hazing death

March 5, 2013 at 7:55 AM
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ORLANDO, Fla., March 5 (UPI) -- Prosecutors have added manslaughter charges for the 11 ex-Florida A&M University marching band members accused in the hazing death of Robert Champion.

The defendants, all of whom were members of FAMU's Marching 100, had previously been charged with felony hazing in the death of Champion, who was a drum major.

Prosecutors said Champion, 26, died Nov. 19, 2011, when he was "pummeled to death" during a hazing ritual aboard the percussion section's bus when it was parked outside an Orlando hotel after a FAMU game.

Champion's family applauded the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office for upgrading the charges "to be more [commensurate] with the heinous crime committed," family attorney Christopher Chestnut said.

If convicted, the manslaughter charges could carry a 15-year prison sentence while the maximum punishment for felony hazing is five years, the newspaper reported.

In addition to the new manslaughter charges, prosecutors also charged two more ex-band members, Henry Nesbitt, 26, and Darryl Cearnel, 25, the Orlando Sentinel reported Monday. The two men face both the hazing and manslaughter charges and bring the total number of defendants to 13.

Nesbitt called 911 after Champion's beating and Cearnel was found attempting to perform CPR on the victim when paramedics arrived on scene, the sheriff's investigative summary said. It was not clear why prosecutors decided to charge the men, the Sentinel reported.

Circuit Judge Marc Lubet scheduled a pretrial conference for Aug. 2. The initial trial start date was scheduled for October 2012, but defense lawyers said preparing for the case has been difficult because they could have as many as 100 witnesses.

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