An ex-FAMU band member was convicted this past Friday (Oct. 31) of manslaughter in relation to a hazing ritual known as “Crossing Bus C” that resulted in the death of 26-year-old Robert Champion in 2011.
According to prosecutors, Dante Martin, 27, was known among the group as “the president of Bus C,” and was responsible for organizing the initiation ritual that called for band members to power through a chorus of punches, mallets, and sticks. Two fellow band members endured the cruel hazing before Champion. Martin received misdemeanor convictions in their cases.
Champion collapsed and died shortly after complaining of having trouble breathing and vomiting in parking lot.
Defense attorneys tried to paint the incident as more of an intense competition rather than cruel hazing stating that Champion was not forced to participate in the act.
“You can’t take it in isolation and act like it was just any other band,” said defense attorney Richard Escobar during closing arguments of the trial. “Brutal as it was, foolish as it was … it was competitive.”
“Tradition didn’t kill Robert Champion,” Prosecutor Jeff Ashton responded. “Tradition isn’t to blame. Tradition is not an excuse … It’s not a defense to those that got caught.”
Sentencing for Martin is set for Jan. 9. He faces up to 15 years.