No decision made on civil case against FAMU in hazing death

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SARASOTA, Fla. - Attorneys for Florida A&M University on Wednesday asked a judge to dismiss a civil lawsuit brought by the family of a drum major who died last year after being hazed by fellow band members, claiming Robert Champion was a willing participant in the ritual.

However, Circuit Judge Walter Kominski did not rule on Wednesday.

University attorney Richard Mitchell said Champion wasn't forced to board a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel where the hazing took place, and he had risen through the ranks of the famed Marching 100 band without taking part in hazing until that fateful night in November 2011

Champion's willingness to take part in the hazing ritual gives the university immunity from the wrongful death lawsuit, Mitchell said.

"Robert Champion knew exactly what he was doing," Mitchell said. "Getting on that bus and staying on that bus, Mr. Champion clearly induced the other participants to haze him. If he wasn't on that bus, he wouldn't have been hazed."

Champion's parents filed a lawsuit contending university officials did not take action to stop hazing even though a school dean proposed suspending the famed Marching 100 band just days before their son died. The lawsuit also alleges that school officials fell short in enforcing anti-hazing policies.

Champion's parents rejected a $300,000 settlement offer from the university earlier this month.

Ten FAMU band members face felony hazing charges in the case, while two others face misdemeanor counts.

The lawsuit also names the bus company that operated the bus where the hazing took place, as well as its driver. Their attorneys told Kominski that Champion's participation relieved them of liability.

"It is not an issue of whether he was a participant in hazing," said Dick Ford, an attorney for Fabulous Coach Lines. "He certainly was a participant in hazing."