Eight former members of the Florida A&M band are now facing manslaughter charges in addition to charges of felony hazing in the 2011 beating death of fellow band mate, Robert Champion back in November of 2011.
Defense attorney, Craig Wellington told MSN, “We were certainly not expecting that firework,” referring to the manslaughter charges, which he said came in the form of an email mere minutes before setting foot in an Orlando courtroom to begin a status hearing.
In addition to the original band members facing charges, two more defendants will now face manslaughter charges as well.
A status hearing for the case has been set for August, after Judge Marc Lubet determined that June would not be realistic in a case that has over 100 witnesses.
Robert Champion died after being severely beaten while on a parked bus in a hotel parking lot, following FAMU’s annual rivalry game against Bethune-Cookman.
Authorities listed his official cause of death as internal bleeding, noting that he had bruises on his arms, shoulder, back and chest. It was also reported that he began vomiting before becoming unresponsive.
The new, weightier charges are expected to encourage the defendants to take a plea deal, according to reports. Former federal prosecutor, David S. Weinstein told The Huffington Post that it would be easier to prove felony hazing charges than manslaughter. He added that it was not abnormal for prosecutors to pursue a lesser charge while concurrently gathering evidence to upgrade later.
Two of the former FAMU band members, Brian Jones and Ryan Dean, had their cases resolved last year. Both pleading no-contest to third degree felony hazing. Brian was given six months of community control, in addition to two years probation and 200 hours of community service, and Ryan was given four years probation and 200 hours of community service.