Former FAMU percussionist Dante Martin was found guilty of manslaughter and multiple counts of hazing in what the prosecutor is saying sends a powerful message.
“I hope this scares people enough to stop it and to realize it’s not tworth it and to just find better ways to show you belong than hitting people …or endangering their lives” he said outside the courtroom.
After the verdict of “guilty”, Martin, who faces up to 22 years in prison and will be sentenced January 9, showed no emotion. Their were audible gasps in the courtroom including from the victim’s parents.
Martin’s criminal defense lawyers made no statement but said they planned to appeal on behalf of their now 27-year-old client. He was made out to be the ringleader of the band group that performed the deadly hazing ritual aboard the team bus in Orlando.
The trial consisted of three days of testimony, four hours of arguements from the state and defense and ended in a guilty verdict after a mere two hours of deliberations.
The Florida A&M band was well known throughout the state and has performed at Super Bowls, Grammys and presidential inaugurations. The death of one of their own had riled the band, including their tradition of hazing new members.
The victim, a FAMU student for seven years, volunteered to be hazed in a particular ritual known as “crossing bus C” on November 19, 2011.
This particular ritual consisted of him crossing the front to the back of the bus while being pummeled by fellow band members. He was allegedly hit more then 100 times by fists and drumsticks.
The vicitm cooapsed soon after the ritual, which followed the Florida Classic game between FAMU and Bethune-Cookman University. At the trial, the jury heard the cause of death: hemorrhagic shock as a result of the beating.
The defense tried to claim that this was not hazing, rather it was a character competition that had been in place for generations. The jury clearly did not agree.
Martin, who did not testify on his behalf, was also convicted of two misdemeanor counts of hazing two other students, both of whom were not injured.
10 other band members have previously received community control and probation sentences for their participation in the hazing. Three other students are currently awaiting trial and one man received a year in jail.
The school itself has not escaped blame. FAMU is being sued for wrongful death with the plaintiffs saying this “culture of hazing” has been encouraged for decades.
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