DeVercellys’ lawyer: Family ‘is terribly upset’

By Olivia Tattory

The legal counsel representing the DeVercelly family criticized the request of two students charged in connection with the death of freshman Gary DeVercelly to enter a Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI) and said the family is considering a civil suit, in an interview on Thursday.

Douglas Fierberg, a nationally recognized attorney from Washington, D.C., specializing in hazing, said the request for PTI is “outrageous.”

He added that the family is certainly considering legal action, although he would not comment on who would be named in a suit or the time frame in which it would be filed.

“[The DeVercelly family] is terribly upset that individuals involved with the death of their son will pay no meaningful criminal price,” said Fierberg.

Students Adriano DiDonato and Dominic Olsen asked the Mercer County prosecutor’s office to accept their cases into PTI following the charges of aggravated hazing, a fourth-degree charge brought against them in connection with the death of the 18-year-old from alcohol poisoning last spring. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

At the hearing on Sept. 10, Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Skylar Weissman did not object to the two entering the program.

PTI provides defendants, usually non-violent first time offenders, the opportunity for an alternative to a traditional criminal trial and ordinary prosecution. The program aims at early rehabilitative methods through means of community service and/or fines.

“Every PTI is case specific,” said Casie Diblasio, Mercer County Prosecutor spokesperson “The prosecutors take a look at everything individually and determine what the program will entail.”

Once the probationary-type program is successfully completed and if the defendant does not commit any new crime, the charges are dismissed.

The third student who was indicted, Michael Torney, had not applied for PTI as of Thursday afternoon. Torney has transferred from Rider to Franklin & Marshall University in Lancaster, Pa.

The next hearing for the three students is scheduled for Oct. 1 with Judge Mitchel Osterer presiding over the case.

DiDonato, 22; of Princeton, N.J.; former house manager of Phi Kappa Tau, Olsen, 21, of Kenilworth, N.J.; former PKT pledge master and Torney, 21, of Randolph, N.J., former PKT president, all pleaded not guilty in hearings in August.

The indictments, released on Aug. 3, alleged “that on or about March 28-29, in connection with the initiation of applicants to a fraternal organization, the defendants knowingly or recklessly organized, promoted, facilitated or engaged in conduct which resulted in serious bodily injury to Gary DeVercelly and William Williams.”

Williams was taken to Capitol Health System’s Fuld campus in Trenton and released.

Dean of Students Anthony Campbell and Director of Greek Life Ada Badgley were also named on the indictment released in August.

Their charges were dropped on Aug. 28, when the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office determined the evidence could not meet the requirement of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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