Case dropped in hazing-death case

Prosecutors have dropped their case against Henry Nesbitt, one of the FAMU band members charged in the 2011 death of drum major Robert Champion, according to clerk's records and Nesbitt's attorney.

Nesbitt, now 27, wasn't initially charged but was added as a defendant when Orange-Osceola State Attorney Jeff Ashton upgraded the hazing cases against the band members to manslaughter last year.

"Certainly [Nesbitt is] relieved that he's no longer being charged with these crimes," his attorney, Zachary White, said when reached by the Orlando Sentinel on Saturday.

White said the prosecution's decision to drop Nesbitt's charges did not stem from any agreement on his client's behalf, though he is still listed as a state witness and "plans to comply with whatever they ask of him."

Before the charges were dropped, "we were preparing to go to trial," White said, adding: "It was the state's decision to do that, and we're just fortunate that he's no longer charged with it."

Nesbitt was identified by investigators as one of the leaders on Bus C, where Champion was subjected to the hazing ritual in which he was fatally injured, and as the band member who called 911 to report Champion wasn't breathing.

According to Sheriff's Office records, Nesbitt initially declined to give a statement, referring detectives to his attorney, but was later interviewed by the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Nesbitt, who was in the band's tenor drum section, told authorities he left the bus before the ritual began.

"He all along has never tried to keep any information hidden about what he knew about the matter," White said.

Champion died after the 2011 Florida Classic football game due to a hazing known as "Crossing Bus C," in which he attempted to run from the front of the percussion section's bus to the back through a gantlet of band members.

Several FAMU band members have taken plea deals in connection with the case, and several more are still awaiting trial on charges of manslaughter and hazing resulting in death.

FAMU is still recovering from the hazing scandal resulting from Champion's death, which rocked its vaunted Marching 100 band. The organization that accredits FAMU lifted the university's yearlong probation in December.

The university's trustees last month approved a three-year contract for a new president, Elmira Mangum, to replace former President James Ammons, who was pushed out in 2012 amid the scandal and other problems.

Staff writer Stephen Hudak contributed to this report. or 407-420-5171

Copyright © 2018, CT Now