The findings of the criminal investigation conducted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) concluded that Champion, a now-deceased FAMU drum major, “willingly participated” in the hazing ritual that took his life on Nov. 19, 2011.
“Whether Robert went on that bus voluntarily, whether he was coerced or whether he was forced on the bus we don’t know,” Chestnut told the press after the release of the investigation results.
But a recent article in the Tampa Bay Times, the largest newspaper in Florida, sided with the OCSO’s conclusion about what happened.
“Champion had one last challenge,” Times reporter Ben Montgomery wrote while referencing the hazing process Champion underwent after last year’s Florida Classic. “Endure a painful, clandestine ritual that was both intensely important inside the band and illegal in the eyes of the law. He didn't have to do it. He volunteered.”
“Mrs. Champion's position is this,” Chestnut told the press after the sentencing a criminal defendant in the Champion case. “If you were on the bus, you intended to haze. You’re not on a bus — an empty bus that's running at 9 p.m. at night — and not intending to participate in the activity that's planned to take place…”
FAMU attorneys say Chestnut’s words were a “binding admission” that Champion intended to break the anti-hazing rules that the State of Florida and the university put in place to protect students.