Wendy Mellette, who drove the bus on which Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion suffered fatal hazing on Nov. 19, has rejected a claim of responsibility for the incident.
The Orlando Sentinel reported Tuesday that Mellette, a driver with the Fabulous Coach Lines, is blaming the university, saying FAMU allowed hazing to take place. The paper noted that Mellette has not been charged in Champion’s death.
The late student’s family have filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging the driver stood guard during the hazing and forced Champion back on the bus after he was beaten, the paper said, adding that Fabulous Coach Lines attorneys refute that claim.
President Barack Obama touched on the hazing death during a campaign appearance last week in Florida CNN reported that Obama commented on the incident during an interview with WCTV, the network’s Jacksonville affiliate, on July 19.
“Well, obviously the loss of that young man's life is heartbreaking,” the president said. “I think that we can't tolerate bullying of any sort, anywhere. And when we send our young people to college we expect them to be there to learn and to get a great experience, not to be beaten. So, you know, I'm pleased this has gotten attention.”
Obama said tradition should continue but added, “We don't need this kind of bullying to be a part of it.”
Eleven members of FAMU’s Marching 100 band are facing felony hazing charges and two others face misdemeanor counts in Champion's death. They have pleaded not guilty.
Two investigations are ongoing, including one by the Florida Board of Governors which oversees the State University System.
The Marching 100 has been suspended until 2013 and FAMU President James Ammons has resigned. The university’s Board of Trustees has appointed Provost Larry Robinson interim president.
Photo: Robert Champion