• Attorney: there was 'culture of hazing' at FAMU

    Updated:

    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla.,None - Florida A&M University had a "culture of

    hazing" that led to the recent death of a marching band member, an

    attorney for the student's family said Monday.

       Attorney Christopher Chestnut said the family plans to file a

    lawsuit in the death of 26-year-old Robert Champion, who was found

    Nov. 19 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after the

    school's football team lost to rival Bethune-Cookman.

     Police said Champion, a clarinet player who recently was named

    drum major, had been vomiting and complained he couldn't breathe

    shortly before he collapsed. Police said hazing played a role in

    his death but have not released any more details. Chestnut also

    refused to talk about any specifics.

       "We are confident from what we've learned that hazing was a

    part of his death. We've got to expose this culture and eradicate

    it," Chestnut said. "There's a pattern and practice of covering

    up this culture."

       Meanwhile, the band director who was fired from the school last

    week said he was unfairly dismissed and will fight to get his job

    back. Longtime band director Julian White said he had suspended

    band members this semester for hazing-related incidents before

    Champion's death.

       White said he feared the hazing linked to Champion's death could

    mean the end of the school's famed Marching 100 band, which has

    performed at Super Bowls and other high-profile events.

       Champion's parents said their son never told them about any

    troubles with the band.

       "He loved the band, and every band he's been in. He loved

    performing in the band. I called him 'Mr. Band'," said Champion's mother, Pam Champion.

    "My thing is to make sure this does not happen to anyone else, let

    people know this is real."

    His mother said he decided he would be a drum major when he first saw the famed Florida A&M "Marching 100" at age five.

       Since Champion's death, the school has shuttered the Marching

    100 band and the rest of the music department's performances.

    "No one wants to hear on a phone call that your son collapsed and died," Pam Champion said.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott has said state investigators would join the

    probe and the college announced an independent review led by a

    former state attorney general.

       No charges have been filed, but any death involving hazing is a

    third-degree felony in Florida.

       Under Florida law, any monetary award Champion's family wins in

    a lawsuit in excess of $200,000 against a government institution

    like FAMU can only be paid if approved by the Legislature and

    governor.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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