January 10th, 2012
10:42 PM ET

FAMU drum major might have been gay

Orlando (CNN) -  The attorney for the family of Robert Champion, who died in November after he was beaten on a bus, allegedly as part of a Florida A&M University band hazing ritual, says Champion's friends have told him the 26-year-old drum major was gay.

Relatives believe that may have been one of many factors that contributed to Champion being treated more severely than other band members, attorney Chris Chestnut said.

However, Chestnut says, Champion's homosexuality is not believed to have been a primary factor in the beating.

"This is not a hate crime. This is a hazing crime," he said. "Florida A&M University has a 50-year history, a culture in this band, of hazing."

Chestnut made the comments at a press conference today to announce Champion's family will sue the company that owns the bus where the incident allegedy happened.

The bus and its air conditioning system is believed to have been running at the time Champion was beaten, Chestnut said, and the bus driver might not have been aboard. The family is suing Fabulous Coach Lines, based in Branford, Florida, he said.

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