ORLANDO, Fla. — The first of more than a dozen defendants charged in the hazing death of a Florida A&M drum major entered a plea of no contest Tuesday to third-degree felony hazing.
A judge didn’t impose a conviction on 23-year-old Brian Jones, of Parrish, Fla., who switched his plea from not guilty. Jones isn’t admitting or denying guilt in the no-contest plea.
Jones refused to comment after the hearing in an Orlando courtroom. Sentencing is set for Oct. 22.
In agreeing to the deal, Circuit Judge Marc Lubet said Jones’ role in the hazing death of Robert Champion was relatively minimal.
“It is my understanding … that there is no testimony that he at any time beat or hit Mr. Champion. Is that correct? Lubet asked Jones’ attorney, Alisia Adamson.
“That is correct,” she said.
Champion died last November after being beaten by fellow band members during a hazing ritual aboard a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel following a football game. An autopsy concluded Champion suffered blunt trauma blows to his body and died from shock caused by severe bleeding.
Ten other FAMU band members face felony hazing charges, while two others face misdemeanor counts for alleged roles in Champion’s hazing. Their trials are set for early next year.
Champion’s death revealed a culture of hazing at Florida A&M and other schools. It also contributed to the abrupt resignation of the university’s president in July, the resignation of the band’s longtime director and the suspension of the famed March 100 until next year.
— Associated Press