Dante Martin, sentenced to 77 months for hazing

The following entry was written by Jeri Cosgrove, University of Maine Higher Education graduate student, for StopHazing. 

Robert Champion, a 26 year-old Drum Major with the Florida A&M marching band was beaten to death in a hazing ritual more than three years ago. Two weeks ago, Dante Martin, the man accused of organizing the brutal display, was sentenced to 77 months in prison after being convicted of manslaughter in late 2014.

The hazing event, known as “crossing bus C” was defended by Martin’s attorney as a “competition” that had been in place for generations. “Brutal and senseless as it was…” said defense attorney Richard Escobar, “…it was a competition. Escobar’s defense was not enough to spare Martin from his manslaughter charge. And, more importantly, Martin’s conviction and sentencing speaks volumes to the mobilization of ideas and attitudes that reject the cliches of hazing behavior.

Often, hazing behaviors are defended as “tradition” – an event that must be experienced by all in order to claim membership legitimacy. What the Robert Champion trial brings forth is the expectation that claims of tradition do not exist as a valid defense for these actions. Prosecutor, State Attorney Jeff Ashton made this expectation clear in his declaration that tradition is not to blame for Champion’s death.

What the Champion case does, in the broadest of sense, is bring forth a precedent in understanding. Mr. Champion’s death was not excusable. The banal claims of convention can no longer be used to justify these emotionally and physically violent acts.