ORLANDO, Fla.

Charges filed against 13 in hazing death of band member

Prosecutors have filed charges against 13 people accused of taking part in the beating death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion after the marching band’s performance at the Florida Classic football game in Orlando last fall.

Of the 13 defendants, 11 face felony hazing charges, Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar said Wednesday. Lamar said more than 20 misdemeanor charges also were being filed, including at least some involving “different victims who were not seriously injured.”

In a news conference announcing the charges Wednesday, Lamar called Champion’s death following an attack aboard a charter bus on Nov. 19 “nothing short of an American tragedy.”

The attorney for the Champion family, Christopher Chestnut, said Champion’s parents were “very disappointed” because they had hoped for more serious charges.

“Their son is dead. He was beaten to death on a bus – that constitutes murder,” Chestnut said.

Champion, 26, was punched, kicked and suffocated by his fellow band members, according to a wrongful death lawsuit Chestnut filed in February against the charter-bus company and bus driver.

RALEIGH, N.C.

Billy Graham urges voters to support gay marriage ban

The Rev. Billy Graham urged North Carolina voters Wednesday to support an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage, a move that an observer said was highly unusual but another said was in keeping with the minister’s moral beliefs.

“Watching the moral decline of our country causes me great concern,” said Graham, 93, who lives near Asheville. “I believe the home and marriage is the foundation of our society and must be protected.”

His complete statement about Amendment One will be part of full-page ads slated to appear in 14 North Carolina newspapers through the weekend.

Graham’s statement was issued by the Charlotte-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

– From news service reports