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FAMU Hazing Suit Claims Bus Driver Stood Guard

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on February 15, 2012 5:05 AM

A charter bus driver stood guard and even facilitated a FAMU band member's hazing-related beating death, a lawsuit claims.

Robert Champion, 26, of Atlanta, a drum major with Florida A&M University's famous "Marching 100," died after brutal beatings linked to hazing rituals on a charter bus in November, the Orlando Sentinel reports. No one has been criminally charged.

But it wasn't just other FAMU band members who had hands in Champion's death, the lawsuit by his parents claims. The charter bus driver -- who considered herself part of the bus' "posse" -- is also responsible, the suit asserts.

Bus driver Wendy Millette's actions were negligent and caused drum major Robert Champion's wrongful death, the FAMU hazing lawsuit alleges.

To prove negligence, the Champions' lawyers will have to show Millette breached a duty of care to Champion, which then caused his death. The FAMU hazing lawsuit, as described in the Sentinel, lays out their case:

Millette made it easy for the hazing to happen by allegedly parking her bus in an "obscured" area, away from other FAMU charter buses, the suit says.

Millette also "forced" Champion to get back on her bus, after an initial beating made the drum major vomit in the parking lot, the lawsuit claims.

And when a fellow charter bus driver asked what was happening aboard Millette's bus -- seen rocking from side to side as the alleged hazing continued -- Millette allegedly told the other driver "to ignore the activity and move on," the suit states, according to the Sentinel.

Taken together, these allegations could lead a jury to believe the bus driver was negligent. But a bus company spokesman denied the claims, and said Millette did not witness any hazing aboard her bus, according to the Sentinel.

Even if that's true, Millette "knowingly aided and abetted" the hazing by leaving the bus running with the air conditioning on, the FAMU hazing lawsuit asserts. "If that's not participation, then I don't know. [The bus driver] availed a venue," the Champions' lawyer told the Associated Press.

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