(ORLANDO, Fla.) — One of the former Florida A&M University drum majors charged in the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion was sentenced Friday to house arrest and probation for his role in his band mate’s death.
Rikki Wills, 25, was one of the five drum majors who led Champion’s funeral march, escorting his casket during the funeral.
Champion, 26, was a member of the college’s famed “Marching 100” band when he collapsed and died Nov. 19, 2011 on a bus parked outside an Orlando, Fla., hotel after a football game.
The death was ruled a homicide and Champion’s torso was covered with bruises that were inflicted during a brutal hazing ritual that contributed to his death, according to investigators.
Wills was sentenced to one year of “community control”–a formal name for house arrest–and five years of state probation.
In May, Wills pleaded no contest to felony hazing resulting in death and his attorney said he has “owned up to what his part was.”
“He acknowledges that he was on the bus and he basically did a pull-through, basically trying to help Robert stay on his feet and continue to the back of the bus as fast as possible so he didn’t get struck,” Wills’ attorney William Hancock told ABCNews.com today after the sentencing.
“He felt he was doing everything he could to protect him,” Hancock said.
More than 2,000 pages of evidence from the investigation into Champion’s death were released by the Florida District Attorney’s Office in May 2012, which delivered a blow-by-blow of the events from the night of Champion’s death.
Champion endured a lethal pummeling down the aisle of a pitch-black bus that rocked from the force of the violence inside, according to the documents.
Champion struggled, with a female band member holding him back to prolong the punishment, through a gauntlet of band mates who used their fists, feet, straps and sticks to pound him into unconsciousness.
“Rikki felt that he had done everything he possibly could to talk Robert out of doing this and was acutely surprised when Robert participated in the hazing,” Hancock said.
He added that he believes FAMU is more to blame than the students who participated in the hazing ritual.
“I really think the blame falls greater on the institution that perpetuated the hazing than the participants, but he certainly owned up to his personal responsibility,” Hancock said.
Champion’s parents traveled to Orange County, Fla., for the hearing from their home in Georgia. The Champion family’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.
Thirteen FAMU band members were charged in relation to Champion’s death.
The first defendant sentenced in Champion’s death was Brian Jones, 24, who got two years of probation and 200 hours of community service in October 2012.
“The judge had stated that your part in Robert’s death was really minimal, but you and I know that’s not true,” Champion’s mother Pamela Champion told Jones in court. “It will always be there haunting you. We both know that.”
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