Tuesday, March 05, 2013

12 ex-Marching 100 members charged with manslaughter in Champion’s death

Twelve former Marching 100 members accused of participating in the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion face second-degree manslaughter charges that could place each of them behind bars for 15 years.

Last year, former Orange and Osceola County state attorney Lamar Lawson brought third degree felony hazing charges against 13 band students who allegedly took part in the “Crossing Bus C” ritual that took Champion’s life on November 19, 2011. He explained that he went with felony hazing charges because he didn’t have sufficient evidence to prove manslaughter.

“We can prove participation in hazing and a death,” Lawson said concerning the decision. “We do not have a blow or a shot or a knife thrust that killed Mr. Champion.”

Lawson lost his reelection in 2012 to challenger Jeff Ashton (pictured), who is best known for his work as the lead prosecutor in the Casey Anthony trial.

On Monday, Ashton announced his decision to upgrade the charges for most of the Champion defendants. Third degree felonies carry a maximum sentence of five years. But second-degree manslaughter is three times more severe because it is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Two convicted “Bus C” hazers, Brian Jones and Ryan Dean, will not appear in court on manslaughter counts. They both resolved their cases by pleading no contest to the third degree hazing felony charges. The two men are now serving probation.  

The remaining ten alleged hazers who face manslaughter charges were joined by two additional defendants. Henry Nesbitt, the band member who called 9-1-1 to report Champion’s collapse, and Darryl Cearnel, who administered CPR to Champion, are also accused of playing a role in the illegal pledging process that left him dead.

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