Florida A&M University has offered $300,000 – the maximum it says it can offer without state legislative action – as a settlement to the family of Robert Champion Jr., the drum major who died after a hazing ritual last year, a university attorney said Thursday.
But the family’s attorney, Chris Chestnut, said that the offer is an insult, and that the family will not consider it.
The offer, filed in Florida circuit court, aims to settle a lawsuit that Champion’s family filed against the school’s board of trustees in July.
“FAMU has offered the Champions the absolute maximum amount allowable by law,” FAMU attorney Richard Mitchell said. “Anything more would require a special act approved by the state legislature.
“It is our hope that this settlement will be accepted and can in some way help in the healing process for the Champion family and the entire FAMU community.”
Champion, 26, died in November 2011 following being beaten on a bus in Orlando, Florida, after a football game at which the school's famed marching band performed.
The hazing was part of a ritual known as crossing the bus, an initiation process in which pledges attempt to run down the center aisle from the front door of the bus to the back while being punched, kicked and assaulted by senior members, band members have said.
A medical examiner's office ruled his death a homicide and said Champion "collapsed and died within an hour of a hazing incident during which he suffered multiple blunt trauma blows to his body." An autopsy found "extensive contusions of his chest, arms, shoulder and back" as well as "evidence of crushing areas of subcutaneous fat."
Fourteen people have been charged criminal hazing in the case. One of them, a student, pleaded no contest and was sentenced last month to six months of community control (requiring he document his comings and goings, and request permission for any trips), two years of supervised probation and 200 hours of community service.
In addition to suing FAMU’s board of trustees, it has sued the company that owns the bus in which the abuse occurred, and the driver of the bus.
In September, FAMU responded to the lawsuit by filing court documents saying that the institution was not responsible for Champion’s death. The school asserted Champion broke the law and school policies when he willingly took part in the hazing that left him dead.