The charges came more than five months after Robert Champion died aboard a chartered bus parked outside an Orlando hotel following a performance against a rival school.
Joseph Brown III/The Tampa Tribune/AP/File
Thirteen people were charged Wednesday in one of the biggest college hazing cases ever prosecuted in the U.S., accused in the death of a Florida A&M University drum major who authorities say was mercilessly pummeled by fellow members of the marching band.
The charges came more than five months after Robert Champion, 26, died aboard a chartered bus parked outside an Orlando hotel following a performance against a rival school.
The most sensational cases of hazing —or endurance rituals to which prospective members of an organization are subjected — have typically involved fraternities, sororities or athletic teams, but the FAMU tragedy in November exposed a brutal tradition among marching bands at a number of colleges around the U.S.
"The death ... is nothing short of an American tragedy," said State Attorney Lawson Lamar. "No one should have expected that his college experience would include being pummeled to death."
Champion's death has jeopardized the future of FAMU's legendary marching band, which has performed at the Grammys, presidential inaugurations and Super Bowls and represented the U.S. in Paris at the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution. FAMU, based in Tallahassee, has suspended the band and set up a task force on curtailing hazing.