Man gets 4 years for hazing death of FAMU drum major

FAMU death an 'American tragedy'
FAMU death an 'American tragedy'


    FAMU death an 'American tragedy'


FAMU death an 'American tragedy' 02:52

Story highlights

  • Caleb Jackson could have been sentenced to 10 years, his lawyer says
  • "Things just got out of control" the night Robert Champion died, the attorney adds
  • Champion died after a hazing incident for the Florida A&M band

(CNN)It's been nearly four years since Robert Champion walked onto a bus full of fellow members of the famed FAMU Marching 100 band and didn't walk out alive.

Since then, several of his bandmates have paid for his death -- a result of hazing -- in court.
And on Friday, Caleb Jackson joined them.
    The 26-year-old Jackson was sentenced to 48 months for his role in Champion's death. He could have been sentenced to 10 years, his lawyer Charles Hobbs said.
    Jackson has under a year more behind bars in this case, because he was given more than three years credit for time served, Hobbs said. Corrections records show he received a four-year sentence for battery in an unrelated incident in 2014.
    Hobbs said his client "was very close to Robert Champion," whose death "will haunt him for the rest of his days."
    Caleb Jackson
    "No one intended for Robert Champion to die that night," the lawyer said. "Things just got out of control, and that thought weighs very heavily on (Jackson's) heart."

    Drum major 'suffered multiple blunt trauma blows'

    On November 19, 2011, Champion and the rest of the Florida A&M University, or FAMU, band were in Orlando for the Florida Classic football game. It was the last game of the season, and the last chance that year the 26-year-old Champion would have to endure the painful process to be fully initiated into the band.
    It began with pummeling with fists and bass drum mallets as he moved into what was called the "hot seat," according to witnesses. Then came the "cross over," in which he was supposed to soldier through punches, drumsticks and mallets to get to the back of the bus.
    Champion touched the back wall, but never made it back to his hotel.
    Immediately afterward, the drum major felt thirsty and tired. Minutes later, he lost his eyesight and went into cardiac arrest.
    The Orange County, Florida, medical examiner's office said later that the "previously healthy (Champion) collapsed and died within an hour of a hazing incident during which he suffered multiple blunt trauma blows to his body."

    Case shined spotlight on hazing

    The incident spurred a nationwide focus on hazing, not to mention ramifications at the Tallahassee school. The band was suspended, its longtime director was ousted, students were expelled and law enforcement got involved.
    Charges followed, including 11 for felony hazing and two for misdemeanor hazing.
    Most of those charged struck plea deals, though some went to trial. The latter includes three defendants convicted last spring on manslaughter and hazing resulting in death charges.
    Jackson's sentence is not the longest given to those charged in the case. In October 2014, Dante Martin got 77 months in prison after a jury found him guilty.