Lasherry Codner became the sixth defendant to be sentenced in the case. The others asked for more time to consider plea offers by the prosecutor.
Codner pleaded no contest Friday to third-degree felony hazing for taking part in the ritual in November 2011 that ended with Robert Champion collapsing and dying.
In exchange for her plea, Codner had a second-degree manslaughter charge against her dropped. She was sentenced to four years of probation, must perform the community service and complete an anti-hazing course.
The 22-year-old drummer also has agreed to be interviewed by investigators and testify for the prosecution in any cases that wind up going to trial.
The Orlando Sentinel reports Codner sobbed as she apologized to Champion’s parents, Robert Sr. and Pamela, who listened to the hearing over the phone from Georgia. “On behalf of myself and my entire marching-band family, no one intended on this happening,” she said. “This truly changed our lives. We’re very, very and deeply sorry that this happened.”
A status hearing was also held Friday for the remaining eight defendants in the case. Attorneys for each asked Judge Marc Lubet to push back what he called a “drop dead date” for them to accept or reject plea offers from the prosecutor.
Lubet agreed to set that new date for Oct. 4, but said he doesn’t anticipate it would be extended beyond that.
“We need to get these cases resolved for the community’s sake, for the defendants’ sake, and for the Champions’ sake,” Lubet said, referencing Champion’s parents, who have either attended by phone or in person each previous sentencing of a defendant.
A different judge will handle any cases that go to trial because Lubet has been assigned to a different court division.
The prosecution contends that Champion, who was from Decatur, Ga., collapsed and died after walking down a gauntlet of other band members who beat him with fists and instruments on a bus parked outside an Orlando hotel following a football game.
It led to the departure of the band’s longtime director, the abrupt resignation of the university’s president, James Ammons, and the suspension last year of the famed marching band. FAMU has since made sweeping changes in an effort to end a culture of hazing.
Prosecutors have brought charges against a total of 15 defendants in Champion’s death. Including Codner, six now have accepted plea deals from the state and been sentenced to probation combinations of community service.
Another one, Caleb Jackson, pleaded no contest to manslaughter in April, but has yet to be sentenced.