5th Suspect To Enter Plea in FAMU Hazing Death

Shawn Turner, 27, agreed on Friday to plead no contest to felony hazing in Robert Champion's death, attorneys announced

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    In this Oct. 8, 2011 file photo, Florida A&M Marching 100 Drum Major Robert Champion performs during a performance at halftime of the game against Howard University at Bragg Memorial Stadium in Tallahassee. A fifth suspect agreed Friday to enter a no contest plea in connection with Champion's hazing death.

    A former Florida A&M University band member agreed on Friday to plead no contest to felony hazing in the 2011 death of fellow drum major Robert Champion, averting a pending manslaughter charge.

    Shawn Turner, 27, is expected to enter the plea next week, Orange County Assistant State Attorney Nicole Pegues said. Felony hazing carries a maximum five-year sentence, but Pegues said the agreement likely would substantially reduce the penalty.

    Turner is the fifth of more than a dozen accused former FAMU band members to enter pleas. Champion, 26, died in November 2011 after collapsing following what prosecutors said was a savage beating during a hazing ritual on a bus parked in an Orlando parking lot. FAMU band members allegedly ran Champion through a gantlet following a football game.

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    There was no single blow, stomp or strike to Robert Champion's bruised and battered body that killed him as he was pummeled by fellow Florida A&M University marching band members during a hazing ritual aboard a charter bus last fall. Hear from the student's parents and law professor Tamara Lave.

    Turner's attorney, Carlus L. Haynes, was in Orange County Circuit Court Friday to argue a motion contesting Turner's second-degree manslaughter charge. When he told Judge Marc Lubet that he was surprised Turner hadn't received a plea offer, Pegues said she was willing to accept one. The two attorneys conferred briefly before announcing the agreement.

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    Thirteen people were charged Wednesday for their roles in the hazing death of a Florida A&M University drum major, Robert Champion. Chuck Hobbs, who represents suspended band director Dr. Julian White, said "now that you have individuals who are subject to arrest, I think that it's going to show that clearly that Dr. White has no personal culpability in the events that led to Robert Champion's death."

    Before reaching the deal, Haynes said Turner tried to protect Champion from the other band members.

    "The defendant's job as helper was to get Robert Champion to the back of the bus amid the kicks and the blows," Haynes said.

    Turner and Champion were both drum majors. According to a state investigator's report, Turner said he and another band member tried to protect Champion during the hazing assault, pushing off other band members.

    No trial date has been set for the other ex-band members. Fourteen have been charged in Champion's death, including four who earlier pleaded no contest. A no contest plea denies guilt but accepts that evidence could lead to a conviction.

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