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FAMU blames Robert Champion for his hazing death

7:59 AM, Sep 11, 2012   |    comments
Members of the Florida A & M University marching band lead a horse drawn carriage carrying the casket of fellow band member Robert Champion following his funeral service in Decatur, Georgia.
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By USA TODAY

Florida A&M University says drum major Robert Champion's own "imprudent, avoidable" actions are responsible for his hazing death and that the school should not be held responsible, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Champion, 26, died in November during a brutal hazing incident aboard a band bus in Orlando.

The university's legal opinion in the case comes in a 23-page motion seeking dismissal of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Champion's family, the newspaper says.

The document, filed Monday night, says Champion, a member of the famed Marching 100 band, died doing something that that he knew violated state law and university policy.

"Respectfully, as a 26 year old adult and leader in FAMU's band, Mr. Champion should have refused to participate in the planned hazing event and reported it to law enforcement or University administrators." the document say, according to the Sentinel. "Under these circumstances, Florida's taxpayers should not be held financially liable to Mr. Champion's Estate for the ultimate result of his own imprudent, avoidable and tragic decision and death."

Champion's parents have charged that the school is at least partly to blame for their son's death for not stopping a culture of hazing within the school's Marching 100 band.

Twelve former members of the band have been charged with felony hazing in his s death. All have pleaded not guilty to the third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, the newspaper says.

Champion family attorney Christopher Chestnut tells USA TODAY that the "culture of hazing' has been tolerated by the university for decades "and it continues and we see the result."

He says he not know whether Champion signed a pledge not to participate in any hazing activities, but that most students were forced to pledge, with a "nod and a wink."

"Anyone who wanted a seat in that band knew what they had to do." Chestnut says.

USA TODAY

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