The first person to be sent to jail in the hazing death of Florida A&M University student Robert Champion, who was from Decatur, apologized in court Friday before being sentenced to a year in jail.
Champion, 26, one of the drum majors of the school's famed Marching 100 band, died in November 2011 after a hazing incident at the annual Florida Classic in Orlando.
Jessie Baskin, 22, was sentenced to 51 weeks in the county jail, five years of probation and 300 hours of community service for participating in the beating death of Champion, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Baskin of Miami had faced nine years in prison after pleading no contest to manslaughter.
His attorney called several character witnesses, including Baskins’ mother and father. He also submitted a brief that contained letters pleading for leniency.
Baskin wiped away tears during the proceedings.
Champion 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.
Judge Marc Lubet said he was torn about how harsh of a sentence to give, but thought Baskin was remorseful about what happened. Lubet said he hoped a year in jail will get the word out that "hazing will not be tolerated."
Fifteen former band members were charged with manslaughter and hazing in Champion's death. According to the AJC story, seven have been sentenced to combinations of probation and community service. One other defendant — Caleb Jackson — has pleaded no contest to manslaughter and is awaiting sentencing.
Champion's parents, Robert Sr. and Pam Champion, also testified Friday. Pam Champion encouraged Baskin to "make positive choices going forward. You did wrong ... you must pay the consequences for what you did," she said.
Baskin at one point turned toward Champion's parents as he said, "I apologize for how this has affected you. I'm not over it. It has affected me, too. Robert was a good man and we know that. ... We did not intend for this to happen."