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. James M

    Now that we understand this murder was a hate crime, why must the family continue to rely on the outcome of civil lawsuits? The people responsible for the death should be facing a capital first degree murder charge. Why isn't that happening?

    January 10, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • MalibuChick

      The seperate class of "hate crime" is stupid. Murder is typically generated by hate and rage. The motivation of the hate and rage is irrelevant. If some guy kills his girlfriend because he hates her, that is somehow less of a crime than someone kills someone because of skin color or something else. Try explaining that to the family that lost their child.

      January 10, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      @ James M
      For one thing there is no evidence of yet that says this was done because he was gay. Just because he happen to be gay doesn’t make it a hate crime. Real life isn’t like the movie Drum Line. He isn’t the only gay kid in the bad. I also agree with MalibuChick, The separate class of "hate crime" is nonsense.

      For the record I’m as gay-friendly as a straight man can be. I just don’t see hate crimes every time something bad happens.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I'm sure we will see that too, or at least they will try to push that...... The main reason: It doesn't pay $. I'm not saying this situation isn't totally f'd up, but why does everything result in a lawsuit? Why should the school have to pay for something a few kids were stupidly doing, and why did this kid subject himself to the beating? Speak up, say no....

      January 10, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      lawyers, lawyers, there is money to be made be guess who - lawyers.

      January 10, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Darren

    What a joke. Has Jesse Jackson been involved yet? Prob not since it was black on black.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  3. But

    Aren't all University marching band members gay?

    January 10, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Who Cares

      Only if they are hazed or found dead.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  4. K3Citizen

    I hope this lawsuit will bring them enough money for the boy to come back to life.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. canadiangirl

    I didn't realize colleges were still segregated in the states?!?

    January 10, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Nice train wreck

      I'm rolling my eyes at your ignorance.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Ruth

      Canadian Girl in been sarcastic, I am a canadian living in the US, unfortunately there are more racist people here than in Canada, just visit the south US states such as Alabama, South Caroline, Kentucky , etc..

      January 10, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      They are not segregated by law. They are segregated by choice. It’s contradictory to their party line but hey… they have their own channel and history month. Why not a few collages?

      January 10, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      I've seen racists everywhere Dr Ruth, including the building I'm sitting in now in Canada. I won't get into who has more or fewer racists. One is too many.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  6. banasy©

    I love money, lots and lots of money!

    January 10, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. In the know...

    I marched at FAMU and with Rob. Speculation of him being gay has NOTHING to do with the "hazing ritual" that took place that night. The hazing crap just went TOO damned far! It shouldn't have been there in the first place! IF he was gay... then that means NOTHING as well as there are a LOT of gays in the band that marched!

    The bus company shouldn't have anything to do with it (my opinion) as when this type of thing goes down, the bus drivers are never present. Ever. Take it from someone who knows. Some of you are being very "matter of fact" about this whole ordeal without knowing what is going on.

    For the record. I am NOT condoning hazing to any extent and quite frankly I'm p*ssed off about this whole thing! I am just upset that someone I knew lost his life over something so trivial.

    January 10, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      so you are probably guilty of being involved with the rest of them

      January 10, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • In the know...

      Actually... I left 5 years ago. Not guilty. A prime example of people opening their mouths without knowing what they are talking about.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  8. dreamer96

    Too much like Penn State...This Band Program should be shut down for 5 years...

    January 10, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      @ dreamer96
      Yes I agree, some students behaving (very) badly is the same as the administration doing so and covering it up.


      January 10, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  9. Dave

    nothing but greed hounds....its not the fault of the bus line that this guys peers decided to haze him....what's the driver gonna do, try and stop a bunch of band members by themselves? Yeah good luck – quit trying to put blame where it doesn't even belong

    January 10, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Yea because you know.. those crazy outlaw band members are known for their martial arts skills.

      January 10, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  10. BillyBob117

    I wonder why it took so long for his chosen lifestyle to be spotlighted? A 26 year old gay drum major--now that is interesting--

    January 10, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  11. templescroll

    yeah, that band uniform does look pretty gay...but I woundn't mess with him, seriously.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. gung hoe

    Quite frankly Iam surprised that this kind of crime dont happen in the military.That was the 1st thing that I thought would happen when it was approved for gays to enlist! You get a bunch of G I s liquord up and they seem to lose their senses!

    January 10, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Linann

    Hazing is wrong on every level. What I don't understand, is how the does the victim get hazed if he does not want to. This young man is dead, becaues he wanted to be part of a group that required a beating, that he accepted. I'm sure they did'nt pull him out of bed in the middle of the night. It's what he choose to do.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • In the know...

      Exactly. It's all about choice. As a Drum Major, you have LONG surpassed the shenanigans that take place during your freshman year. That's the truth.

      January 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. templescroll

    I was thinking of suing Ford Motor Company because my Starbucks spilled over when I took the off ramp at 60MPH. It left a nasty stain on my console and ruined my stash of weed.Also, Starbucks is just as guilty! They should know better than to serve coffee to communters.

    January 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. gung hoe

    Not that I condon this at all,and my condolences to the family! And to the people that dont agree with the bus co being sued well I also agree with you, but you can bet its not just the bus co thats being sued!You see when a lawyer sues they go after everybody right from the top to the bottem.Like the school bus co kids that did it.the more the lawyer can include the better chance of a payday

    January 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
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