- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The five remaining defendants charged in the hazing death of a Florida A&M; drum major are headed for trial.

Judge Renee Roche set a June 24 trial date during a pre-trial conference on Tuesday. She also cleared the following week for what State Attorney Jeff Ashton said he doesn’t believe will be a lengthy trial. He expects one of the five remaining defendants to reach a plea deal before trial.

Ashton said the prosecution could present its case in as little as a week, with the state expecting to call around 20 witnesses.

“Our witness list will be pared down a lot,” Ashton said.

But defense attorneys for remaining defendants Benjamin McNamee, Aaron Golson, Dante Martin, Darryl Cearnel and Jarrod Deas said the logistics of trying them all together will likely cause the trial to take longer.

Some of the remaining defendants have previously declined plea deals from prosecutors that included prison time.

Ashton told Roche that he expects Deas to be the remaining defendant to reach a plea deal before trial.

Robert Champion - originally from Decatur, Georgia - died during a hazing ritual aboard a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel. Champion collapsed after prosecutors say band members beat him with fists and instruments.

Champion’s parents, Robert Champion Sr. and Pam Champion, have said that they plan to attend the trial.

Fifteen former band members were charged with manslaughter and hazing in Champion’s November 2011 death. Seven accepted plea deals that included combinations of community service and probation for what prosecutors said were minor roles.

In March, 22-year-old Jessie Baskin became the first to receive jail time for his role in Champion’s beating, which Ashton said included him being an “enthusiastic participant.” He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to a year in the county jail, though he had faced nine years in state prison.

Caleb Jackson, 25, was sentenced to four years in prison that same month after his arrest in Champion’s death violated the probation he’d received in a previous, unrelated battery case.

Also in March, prosecutors decided to dismiss charges against 27-year-old Henry Nesbitt who, according to investigation documents previously released by the state attorney, was not implicated by witnesses as being heavily involved in Champion’s hazing.

Nesbitt’s only listed involvement was being the person who called 911 after Champion collapsed.


Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at https://twitter.com/khightower

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide