Dante’s Inferno By Hank Nuwer
I’ve never been a fan of trying to end a persistent criminal act by making an example of one guilty party.
Nonetheless, Florida A & M band member Dante Martin may soon become a human cautionary tale for those who would take hazing to a felony level by either beating someone or encouraging/coercing someone to guzzle lethal amounts of alcohol.
Barring a mistrial should Dante Martin’s legal team of Ricahrd Escobar and Dino Michaels successfully appeal, the now-convicted, two-time felon will be sentenced in January from a minimum one year sentence up to 22 years (15 for manslaughter; seven for three counts of felony hazing) in the death of FAMU band member Robert Champion.
Florida State Attorney Jeff Ashton told Orlando Sentinel reporters following the verdict that he hoped the seriousness of the Martin judicial decision would deter other young men and women in band, athletics, fraternities and clubs from conducting hazing activities qualifying as deadly and demeaning.
A jury deliberated just two hours before delivering the verdict to Circuit Judge Renee Roche.
The parents of Robert Champion stressed there were no winners in the courtroom today. The sobbing family of Dante Martin will only see him while he is wearing an orange jump suit for a long time to come. The Champions will never visit their son Robert. And the cruel unknown, of course, is whether Robert Champion, had he survived the brutal attack on Bus C, would have pushed for all such hazings to end or if he, too, would have been part of a deadly tradition.
It is unlikely that the judge will sentence Dante Martin to a 22-year term, but soon, since word travels fast in the world of college sport and Greek life, all potential perpetrators will know that they could be sentenced to a term equal to one-third or one-quarter of their lives.
They will know that they could be walking the prison yard with rapists, killers and other career criminals.
No, I am not pleased that Mr. Dante Martin will serve as a national symbol of what can happen to a hazer when the worst happens.
But he now clearly IS an example. How ironic that his first name is Dante. Like the pilgrim in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, his life now begins a journey through Hell. Dante’s good life thrown away for hazing. Thrown away for brutality. Thrown away because of a hazing death.
And hazing makes sense?