a former florida a&m band member accused of being the ringleader of a brutal hazing ritual known as "crossing bus c," which ultimately led to the senseless death of a drum major, was convicted on friday of manslaughter and felony hazing.
prosecutors said dante martin, 27, was known as the "president of bus c." they said martin organized initiations requiring fellow band members to try and make their way through a pounding gauntlet of drumsticks, fists and mallets from the front of the bus to the back of the bus.
after a football game in november 2011, two other band members went through the bus - and the hazing - before robert champion, 26, of decatur, georgia. after the ritual, champion said he had trouble breathing. he subsequently vomited, collapsed and died in a parking lot.
martin was convicted of misdemeanor hazing counts in their beatings. he will be sentenced january 9, and he was taken into custody. champion's parents sat silently as the verdicts were read. martin sat with his head down. manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison in florida.
the senseless death of champion eventually cast an ominous cloud over the school's nationally acclaimed band, which played at super bowls, and before u.s. presidents. the band was suspended for more than a year after his death; a number of school officials resigned in the aftermath. several other former band members have pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and three others await trial.
defense attorneys told jurors the ritual was more akin to a competition, and there was no actual hazing. they said champion and the others voluntarily participated. during closing arguments, defense attorney richard escobar said, "you can't take it in isolation and act like it was just any other band. brutal as it was, foolish as it was...it was competitive."
but prosecutor jeff ashton said testimony made it clear band members sought a certain measure of acceptance, brotherhood and respect when "crossing bus c." ashton humbly challenged the defense's argument. he said, "tradition didn't kill robert champion, tradition isn't to blame. tradition is not an excuse...it's not a defense to those that got caught."
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.