Ex-college band members get probation in Florida hazing death

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 26, 2015 7:17 PM

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - Three former members of the Florida A&M University marching band were sentenced on Friday to 10 years of supervised probation for the 2011 beating death of a drum major during a brutal hazing ritual.

Benjamin McNamee, 24; Aaron Golson, 22; and Darryl Cearnel, 28; were convicted in April of manslaughter and felony hazing in the death of drum major Robert Champion.

Prosecutor Jeff Ashton, who had sought prison time, turned to Champion's parents and apologized after the sentencing, but would not comment publicly.

Champion's parents declined to comment as they left the courthouse.

State Judge Renee Roche ordered the men to pay restitution to the Champion family at a rate of at least $25 a month for an unspecified time.

All three are eligible for early termination of probation if they participate in outreach to end what the judge called the malignancy of hazing in the nation.

The case drew national attention to college hazing dangers. The FAMU “Marching 100” band has performed at the Super Bowl, Grammy Awards and presidential inaugurations. Revelations of its longtime hazing rituals led to the band's suspension and spurred changes at the historically black college.

Champion, 26, submitted to the hazing ritual after a band performance in Orlando. He was beaten to death as he ran down the bus aisle while being kicked, punched and struck by band members in the seats.

In all, prosecutors charged 15 band members. Eleven pleaded guilty after making deals with prosecutors and received community service sentences. One of them, Jesse Baskin, was also sentenced to 51 weeks in prison last year.

Percussionist leader Dante Martin, 28, described by prosecutors as the ringleader, was also found guilty and sentenced in January to six years and five months in prison.

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Lisa Lambert)