Lawyer: Alleged FAMU hazing victim's family to sue; friends say victim was gay
Florida A&M University student and drum major Robert Champion, 26, died November 19.
January 10th, 2012
09:23 AM ET

Lawyer: Alleged FAMU hazing victim's family to sue; friends say victim was gay

[Updated at 9:23 a.m. ET] Friends of Robert Champion, a Florida A&M University drum major who died in November after allegedly being beaten as part of a band hazing ritual, have told his family's attorney that Champion was gay, attorney Chris Chestnut said Tuesday. Relatives said they believe sexual orientation may have been one of many factors that could have contributed to Champion being treated more severely than other band members may have been, Chestnut said.

[Posted at 9:21 a.m. ET] The family of Robert Champion, who died in November after he allegedly was beaten on a bus as part of a Florida A&M University band hazing ritual, will be suing Fabulous Coach Lines, based in Branford, Florida, attorney Chris Chestnut said Tuesday.

The bus may have been running at the time Champion was beaten, attorney Chris Chestnut said, and the bus driver might not have been aboard. The family is suing Fabulous Coach Lines, based in Branford, Florida, he said.

Champion, 26, collapsed in Orlando on a bus carrying members of FAMU's Marching 100 band after a November football game that included a halftime performance by the group. Chestnut has charged that Champion died after receiving "some dramatic blows, perhaps (having an) elevated heart rate" tied to "a hazing ritual" that took place on the bus.

The family members scheduled a news conference Tuesday morning to share more information about a marching band hazing incident that they say led to his death.

The 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."

The death prompted the FAMU  board of trustees to approve a new three-part anti-hazing plan.

The new policy, approved last week, was passed in a 9-1 vote by the board as the school continues to deal with the controversial death.

An autopsy found "extensive contusions of his chest, arms, shoulder and back," as well as "evidence of crushing of areas of subcutaneous fat," which is the fatty tissue directly under a person's skin.

Along with the university, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Orange County Sheriff's Office are also investigating the case.

soundoff (93 Responses)
  1. Scott Epps

    Below is a list of incidences that also occurred at universities which are a part of the state of Florida's university system. Where has been the public outcry against hazing from these previous events? 1. Sadly the University of Central Florida has had two student deaths associated with their fraternities/sororities and both appeared to be "swept under the rug":
    a. A death of an Alpha Phi Alpha pledge and the hazing of a Kappa Sigma pledge

    b. The death of Delta Delta Delta freshman student involving Tri-Delta and Sigma Chi

    2. At Florida State University there were two students shot, one killed, on Fraternity Row:
    This is addition to the several incidences with the Florida State football team, one which resulted in a co-ed being hit in the face with a chair, resulting in broken bones in her face:

    I fully support all efforts to end hazing and support FAMU in being the leader of this change. However, I would like to see fair reporting and telling of the entire story concerning this nationwide problem

    January 10, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Archibald

      Sorry but that's the way these things work. A lot of people are doing something wrong but one person REALLY does something wrong and it catches the attention of the media and they become the face of the problem, fair or not. That's part of the risk you run by letting something as obviously wrong and unethical as the, alleged, activities happen at your school.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Clearly this is a Florida issue… moron.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    What possible bearing does his being gay have to do with anything?

    January 10, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Pam


      if he was gay and it is found out that the hazing was more brutal because of that fact, it could be considered a hate crime as well as murder.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Thank you, Pam. That explains a lot.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • dogs rule

      Either he was suspected of being gay, or someone found out. Why else would he be brutalized in such a manner?!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • dogs rule

      PS: In case you do not know this, being in the South is akin to being on an alien planet. Southerners have never evolved; it's enough that this young man was black, but GAY as well? Southerners do not tolerate either of these factors well!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Murder is Murder

      A hate crime is worse than your everyday run of the mill murder therefore it is important.

      Simply being dead is not enough; in today's society you must be dead AND gay for justice to prevail.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • dogs rule: What is the zip code of your Ivory Tower?

      Statements like yours regarding the South have zero merit.

      I am guessing you have never really been in the South for any measurable period of time.

      Racism and horrific acts exist all over this country. I know – I have lived in all four corners of it.

      People are the same wherever you go.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      @ banasy©
      Short answer it doesn’t. It took this long to come out because its irrelevant to the case. They are simply grasping at straws.

      For the record I support gay rights.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  3. Morgan

    I will be interested in the reasoning for the suit against the bus company. What was the duty owed and breached by the bus company? Did the bus driver have a duty to police the passengers? Did the driver have a duty to break up fights? Did the driver have a duty to make sure passengers were safe from one another? If so, how does the driver juggle those duties with the duty of driving? Will there be other parties named in the suit? More details are needed to fully understand the the family's legal reasoning but on the face of it this sure sounds like searching for deep pockets.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Archibald

      My guess is that there is some kind of rule in the operations agreement where if they bus is running then the driver has to be on board, or something similar where there could be an argument made that their lack of staffing as required per the contract, was negligent and might have contributed to the kids feeling like they could get away with the hazing.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • richunix

      Not sure, but is sounds like "easy money" for the Lawyers.......and with their case; it’s a "win – win" scenario. Mmmmmmm I smell a BIG PAY-DAY… I should have changed my Major from Engineering to something more practical…….Becoming a Lawyer….

      January 10, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • jamtx

      I don't agree that the bus company is culpable here but I believe we all have a DUTY to look our for one another and I would hope if the bus driver was on board and saw someone being brutally beaten they would pull over and help. I hope those involved in the "hazing" or as I would like to call it – MURDER of this boy are in jail. Beating someone is not or should never be something that is done as a ritual. I am not one for frivilous lawsuits, I am 100% against them but the death of a child due to a horrific nature I can understand them wanting to hold everyone accountable. I don't think any of us really know what we would do unless we were in a situation like this.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Elexsor

      I agree. This sounds like easy money to me. They are hurting. I get it. But what does this achieve? Why on earth would you sue the bus company? What.. just because of a small technicality? Unless they know the bus driver purposefully turned their head then they are just being greedy. Even then I would try to sue the individuals personally. This should be about learning a lesson and hurting those that did the deed. Not about getting rich. That is why people always sue for big bucks those with money and businesses/corporations and rarely individuals (they know they won't get very much).

      January 10, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Chooch

      Amen to that.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. ProudAlumni

    Can someone please tell me why they are suing the Bus Company?!?!?! The bus driver nor the company had anything to do with the death. I can understand the family wanting justice, but this is taking it too far. By the time this lawsuit is over, the family isn't going to have anything, because the Lawyer is going to take it all with fees.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • MagnumPIE

      Because the family wants money. Once they decided to sue the bus company of all places, they showed their true colors.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • yogotti

      Well they gotta sue somebody...this is america right?

      and party with the most money in this situation is ......*drum-roll* (bad pun)....the bus company!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. Kevin

    I have always wandered if families that successfully sue when a loved one is killed feel awkward accepting the blood money of their loved one.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • UlsterJohny

      What are you going to do? The law permits civil suits in cases of wrongful death. The opposite side of the coin might be killers profiting from telling their story and again victimizing the family of the victim. And is it really 'Blood money'? That's a pretty offensive term to use against a family whose adult child was beaten to death.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • MagnumPIE

      Suing the bus company makes it blood money. The bus company had zero to do with this and the fact the family is going after them shows it's not about justice, but about the money.

      January 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kerry

    The brutality of those young people should also not go unpunished. I hope the victims family can find some justice in court, especially since the prosecutors have failed to do anything thus far. In reality it is the students who beat him that are liable, or their parents, if they are under age. I agree the bus driver should have pulled over and hopefully there is a lesson there for all there as well.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • itwasntme904

      How about the administrators that should have been on the bus chaperoning the band? The bus driver has his hand full just driving, the school officials should have stopped it!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. Rantthec.nt

    Who cares about gays?! Next.

    January 10, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  8. Cat 211

    Why is the world are they sueing the bus company? This is probably one of many lawsuits.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • itwasntme904

      Exactly, the bus company had nothing to do with it. If the bus was in transit from Orlando to FAMU, school administrators should have been on the bus and stopped the hazing. I am sure that this is not the first trip in which this occurred. Sue the school, drop the lawsuit against the bus company, and FIRE the band director, his staff, and the president. Forming a committee to study hazing that has been an issue at this school for eons is ridiculous as a march. What a pathetic school!!!

      January 10, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  9. knh

    Alleged victim? The guy is DEAD. There's NOTHING ALLEGED about it....

    January 10, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    Blood or not money is money – the root of all evil!

    January 10, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • nunya bidness

      It's "the love of money is the root of all evil", in and of itself, is benign.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I'm thinking if one hates money, they're not going to go around doing evil things to obtain it...

      January 10, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Oops, bad grammer. Sue me.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. PR

    FAMU is just a school for black thugs. It is obvious that the adminstration knew, and yet did nothing, about this crap. And you wowder why there is no decent black leadership in this county and why there is so much black-on-black violence. They teach it there 'so called' minority colleges.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Lachelle

      Wow! Could you be any more ignorant? First of all, I attended an HBCU (that's what its called by the way,not "minority colleges") and I received a top notch education. I never had any "let's kill off my own kind" classes or "drug dealing 101" classes so I don't see how you've determined that the schools are for black thugs or that they teach black on black violence. If anything I learned to love myself and my people as a whole while receiving my education,we are actually like a family at HBCU's. There are bad apples wherever you go. Second of all,White fraternities and sororities at white universities have plenty of hazing incidents that result in death all the time but of course we don't hear about them because they have rich parents who pay to have it swept under the rug.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      PR was speaking more to the social environment. Something you should have picked up on with that top notch education. The att.itude “learned to love myself and my people as a whole” is part of the problem. Teaching the ‘your people’ dogma just perpetuates the racism in this country. Nice touch finishing up with the racist remark about whites btw.

      January 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. itwasntme904

    Suing the bus company? Are you serious? Not FAMU, the band director, and the president. Man, I was on your side until you decided to sue the bus company. Now you are just after money, not justice!

    January 10, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  13. chrissy

    I agree.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Somewhere a village misses their idiot

      Well, thank goodness for that.


      January 10, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Shhh, be quiet.

      @Somewhere a village misses their idiot:
      The village called. They want to to come back.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Shhh, be quiet.

      The village wants YOU to come back....

      January 10, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Nice train wreck

      HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.......

      January 10, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. PoBoy

    What did the bus driver and his company have to do with this? He wasn't even on the bus when the alleged incident occurred. Are they suggesting that he should have been, and if so he would have stopped it? I doubt it. Now it's starting to become a money grab!

    January 10, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rita

    When someone dies, why do the relatives immediately get dollar signs in their eyes. The "kin" is gross.

    January 10, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • MalibuChick

      Also, if the person happens to be gay, that is automatically a factor. I highly doubt he is the first gay band member.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • agree

      i completely agree

      January 10, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • MLL

      Rita, before you call other people gross you should consider what this family is going through. Their family member was beaten to death, and nothing will bring him back. You & your comments are gross.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Poolchick

      First off, you made a very ignorant comment! Second, it's the principle of it not just a cash in. Hazing has been a problem and not one person stopped it or tried to and now has resulted in a death. The younger generation will keep killing eachother if nobody steps in to stop the insanity and teach right from wrong. No one respects one another any more or a life for that matter. So much hate instead of compassion.

      January 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      That is because that is the way our capitalist system works, if there weren't money involved there would be everyone trying to become layers, there wouldn't be a backlog of senseless litigation, probably there wouldn't be a bunch our lawyers trying to run our lives. This boys death is an irreversible tragedy, it can't be made right, financial punishment is the way lubricious for such crimes.

      January 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
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