Dante Martin, described by prosecutors as the "ringleader" of the Florida A&M band hazing ritual that led to the death of band member Robert Champion in 2011, was sentenced Friday to six-and-a-half years in prison in Orange County (Fla.). He was found guilty of manslaughter and other lesser charges in October. In taking the stand to plead for a lesser sentence, Martin described the benign brutality of hazing. Via the Orlando Sentinel:
"Sometimes we just go with what is tradition," Martin said of the incident that killed Champion. "We don't second guess it, we don't doubt it."
In an exhaustively reported piece from 2012, the Tampa Bay Times horrifyingly described the school bus hazing hell band members were forced to endure, and how it killed Champion:
Robert Champion stripped off his white T-shirt, adrenaline surging, and ran into the dark tangle of fists and feet and drumsticks. Hollis couldn't see what was happening to Champion from his seat in the back. But he could hear the punches and kicks making contact, he said. There were so many people.
When Champion made it halfway, Hollis could see his friend fall, and he could see the mob grab him by the legs and drag him back to where he had started. Minutes ticked by as Champion fought, scrambling slowly down the 45 feet of aisle. At one point, the mob pushed him into a seat and he couldn't break out. Someone hung from the overhead luggage rack and appeared to be stomping him.
Hollis said two or three other drum majors were trying to help, but they weren't doing much good against the mob. Shawn Turner, Hollis said, jerked Champion free and, finally, after more than five minutes of fighting shadows, Robert Champion's fingertips touched the back wall.
Nine other former band members have already been given sentences for their role in Champion's death—mostly community service and probation, though one was sentenced to 51 weeks in jail—and three more will face trial later in 2015.
Photo via Red Huber/AP