FAMU drum major's family to sue after suspected hazing death
Florida A&M University student Robert Champion, 26, became ill and died November 20.
November 28th, 2011
01:17 PM ET

FAMU drum major's family to sue after suspected hazing death

A lawyer for the family of Robert Champion, a Florida university drum major who died this month in what officials have called a hazing-related death, said Monday he will file a lawsuit against the school.

"We are intending to file a lawsuit to get answers" about hazing at Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University, lawyer Chris Chestnut told reporters. "We are concerned about the culture of coverup, that hazing has been covered up at the Band FAMU for generations. So, it's time now that we expose the truth, eradicate this culture, and come up with creative remedies on how to continue the excellence of FAMU's band, but without hazing."

Chestnut said he was not at liberty to discuss the facts of the case, and noted that the medical examiner has not issued a report on the cause of death of the 26-year-old musician. But, he added, the facts that have emerged to date "point to the fact that hazing was a cause of Robert Champion's death, and it was under FAMU's watch."

He said he could not address the scope of the lawsuit, but added, "I can tell you that FAMU will be named in it."

Chestnut described hazing at the school as a don't-ask, don't-tell culture. "The family's message today is: Please, tell."

Because FAMU is a state institution, it is protected by sovereign immunity, which means that Chestnut must file a notice of intention to sue as a prerequisite to the suit, the lawyer said. "After a six-month window, we will file a lawsuit," he added.

"He loved the band - so much, I always called him Mr. Band," Champion's mother, Pam Champion, told reporters. "That was his life."

She added that she was in suburban Atlanta, where the family lives, when she got a phone call informing her of her son's death. The call came shortly after her son had called to say he was coming home for Thanksgiving. "I thought it was some kind of mean joke. ... Maybe it's the wrong kid, maybe it's somebody else."

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Filed under: Florida
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio)"Right Wing Insanity"

    The lawyer is concerned about the "culture of coverup" . Wow, can we award that quote with a smiley face anyone? I'd be more concerned about a "group of liars". Hazing, whats that? If the crime is not incohate, then it's more like what? Complicity to murder! Yeah! So shut down the school and send everyone to prison, right now. Coverup solved.

    November 28, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    With all the talk about Marilyn Monroe, I realized my best friend, who was briefly a contract player (but a big model) in Hollywood and knew many stars, had never talked about Monroe.
    He just called from NC, and I asked. He met her once, just before she died. He said she was very sweet and natural–wasn't wearing makeup.
    They had a mutual friend who had lent Monroe a blanket. Then the guy lent the same blanket to my friend. He called it the Marilyn Monroe Memorial Blanket, but doesn't know what he did with it–???

    November 28, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    Goog God, JIF, I would have had the thing hermetically sealed!

    November 28, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    Good God, I meant.

    November 28, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |

    that guys face just makes me want to haze him.. he looks like fat albert's love child..

    November 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      Lol...you are wrong for that...

      November 28, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mmmmm

    (sigh) why do people have to condesend a person just because they have an unconditional admiration for them. this guy apparently loved music and wanted to be apart of the band so rather than the cogenial welcome they taunt this poor man, beat 'em and it cost him his life...those people should be kicked out of the university and charged..

    November 28, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. **cosmicvox *

    Hi Jif, good one, 😉

    November 28, 2011 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Thank you, **cosmicvox*.
    I said good morning to you under your deleted (rejected?) comment space–you know, the Pasternak/Nobel area.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    No, I take it back, **csmcvx*. I'm sure that you meant "deleted:" I just never saw it.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. Scottish Mama

    My condolences to the family of this young man. All the people who beat him, where are they? No mention if they were there when he died or if they just left him in a room or if they got him help? This is sick. I hope the young people who were there come forward and point out the people who beat him. I hope it is an honest coroner, we do not need any cover ups for the univ. Tragic.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. ethieb08

    Hazing happens around schools all the time and is a very big problem. Hazing needs to be taken seriously because these hazing actions can cause death to innocence students that are there for their education and their passion but get in with the wrong group and something like this happens. Also, if schools want to keep a good image and have more kids see that and come to their school they need to lock down on the hazing that occurs around campus and have a better way to monitor it.

    November 29, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Nisha


    November 29, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
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