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Florida A&M band member gets prison time in drum major hazing death

Florida A&M band member gets prison time in drum major hazing death
The Florida A&M University band performs Sept. 1, 2013, in Orlando during FAMU's season-opening football game against Mississippi Valley State, its first appearance in a football stadium in nearly 22 months after the 2011 hazing death of drum major Robert Champion. (John Raoux / Associated Press)

A former Florida A&M University marching band member was sentenced Friday to more than six years in prison for the 2011 hazing death of a drum major.

Dante Martin, 27, was found guilty of manslaughter and felony hazing, and is the first person to get prison time for the beating death of 26-year-old Robert Champion in a band hazing ritual.

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Martin was sentenced to 77 months in state prison. He was convicted in October during a trial in which prosecutors called him a ringleader of the incident.

Nine former band members so far have been sentenced in the case. All but one received community service sanctions or probation. One member, Jessie Baskin, was ordered to serve 51 weeks in county jail. Three other band members will go to trial later this year, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Circuit Judge Renee Roche in Orlando called Martin a "remarkable young man" with "limitless potential" before the verdict. However, she said the circumstances of Champion's death were "so profoundly disturbing."

Champion died during a voluntary band ritual called "crossing Bus C," in which he was struck more than 100 times as he tried to get from the front of the bus to the back. Martin was also charged in October with misdemeanors in the alleged hazings of two other band members who were not injured during their hazings on the bus.

Martin addressed Champion's parents during the proceeding and expressed remorse, saying, "This is something I will live with for the rest of my life," the Associated Press reported.

Champion's parents have denied that their son was a voluntary participant in the hazing, and have sued FAMU, saying the school allowed a culture of hazing in its band.

The band made a name for itself performing at presidential inaugurations, the Super Bowl and the Grammy Awards.

Twitter: @smasunaga

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