FAMU attorneys alter motion to dismiss Champion hazing suit
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 14:09
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Attorneys for Florida A&M University on Thursday altered their motion to dismiss a wrongful death suit by the family of Robert Champion, taking out a controversial passage strongly suggesting that the late FAMU drum major was responsible for his own hazing death in Orlando last November.
The paragraph in question states that Champion, as a 26-year-old band leader, should have refused to participate in the hazing and reported it to authorities. "Under these circumstances, Florida taxpayers should not be held financially liable to Mr. Champion's Estate for the ultimate result of his own imprudent, avoidable and tragic decision and death."
The amended motion, however, does not back off its original point that FAMU should not be held liable if Champion himself violated Florida law by participating in the hazing.
In an email to the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday night, Rick Mitchell of GrayRobinson, the university's lead trial counsel, said: "FAMU is not 'blaming' anyone for this tragic loss; rather, the University has asked the Court to decide the legal question of whether Florida's taxpayers can be held financially liable to Mr. Champion's Estate according to the facts of the case ... including him knowingly and voluntarily participating in felony hazing."
The amended motion also includes new exhibits to support the university's position, including documents from an anti-hazing workshop in which Champion had participated.
Champion's parents expressed outrage at the original motion at a news conference Thursday. Pamela Champion warned families to "beware" of sending their kids to FAMU, which has a history of violent hazing incidents.
Family attorney Christopher Chestnut added: "It's not about Robert's choice -- it's (about) the fact that FAMU allowed a culture of hazing for decades that led its students to feel like they didn't have a choice as it related to hazing within the band."