In this Oct. 8, 2011 photo, Florida A&M Drum Major Robert Champion performs during a during a game against Howard University. / Don Juan Moore, AP
ATLANTA - The parents of former Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion said Tuesday that they are encouraged by the upgraded charges in their son's hazing death.
"I definitely think it's a step in the right direction," said Pamela Champion. "I'm more encouraged now as to the leadership that is in place (in Florida)."
Twelve former band members were charged Monday with manslaughter in the 2011 hazing death of Champion, 26.
Ten of the band members had been charged last May with third-degree felony hazing, but the state attorney's office said they are adding the charge of manslaughter for each defendant. They also have charged two additional defendants with manslaughter, though they have yet to be arrested.
The second-degree manslaughter charge carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
Robert Champion Sr., who joined his wife Tuesday for a news conference with their attorney, said, "We're just encouraged that justice will be done."
Asked what she would say to those accused of killing her son, Pamela Champion hesitated, seeming to search for words.
"We don't hold hatred toward them," her husband said. "But what must be done is justice must be served."
Champion died in Orlando in November 2011 after he collapsed following what prosecutors say was a savage beating during a hazing ritual. It happened on a bus parked in a hotel parking lot after Florida A&M played Bethune-Cookman in their annual rivalry football game.
Pamela Champion said she still misses her son.
"I loved my son very much," she said. "And what I miss most is - Robert had the kind of personality that he could sense when things were wrong. He was very sensitive. The thing I miss most is, he'd tell me, 'Ah, Mama, it ain't that serious. Don't worry about it.' "
She said the family moved into their home when their son was a year old. "So every piece of that house has him in it," she said.
The Champions' attorney, Christopher Chestnut, said the state attorney who brought the expanded charges, Jeff Ashton, did not speak with the family before doing so.
"He just got elected, stepped in and seized the reins," Chestnut said. "We are now in a position where we trust the judgement of the state attorney."
A spokesman for Ashton's office said the prosecutor would not comment on the case. Ashton, a 30-year veteran who was on the team that failed to convict Casey Anthony of murder in 2011, was sworn in as the area's top prosecutor in January after beating his former boss in a hotly contested election.
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