The 14 defendants in the case of the hazing death of a band member at Florida A&M University have pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter.
The judge set Aug. 2 as a deadline for the defendants to formally accept the plea agreements presented by the prosecution. If not, they will face a trial.
The case of the death of the band’s drum major, Robert Champion, in November 2011 rocked the historically Black college in Tallahassee. The incident led to the resignation of the university’s president and a suspension of the activities of the famed marching band. The university has sought a settlement with the family.
The defendants are charged in the hazing death of Champion, 26, who died from hemorrhagic shock, the result of excessive bleeding. He was attacked as part of a hazing ritual while inside a parked bus during a game in Orlando against Bethune-Cookman University.
Most of the defendants pleaded not guilty last year to felony hazing, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. But prosecutors added two defendants, Darryl Cearnel and Henry "Snacks" Nesbitt, and upgraded the potential risk to ex-band members last month by adding a charge of manslaughter, which carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity)