Legal woes for Torney, 2 others get probation

By Paul Szaniawski

Two students who were indicted for aggravated hazing in the case of Gary DeVercelly’s death were granted probationary Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) the same day a third chose to move forward with his case.

Former president of Phi Kappa Tau Michael Torney, of Randolph, and his lawyer, Michael Rodgers, decided to pass on PTI and asked for time to find more evidence. Just minutes earlier, Dominic Olsen, of Kenilworth, and Adriano DiDonato, of Princeton, were accepted into PTI in front of Judge Mitchell Ostrer. to avoid a trial and a possible prison term.

“Pre-Trial Intervention is designed to rehabilitate defendants and return them back to the community,” Ostrer said.

Olsen and DiDonato will go through 36 months of probation, perform 100 hours of community service, attend alcohol counseling and also pay fines of $125. If either student commits a crime during the probation the PTI is dissolved and he could be prosecuted again.

One part of the program demands that if their former fraternity brother were to go to trial they would have to cooperate and give statements.

Rodgers asked Judge Ostrer for a period of time to perform discovery. The lawyer would like to see more evidence, including tapes seen by the grand jury that indicted his client. The judge set a new court date for Nov. 27.

At first, Skylar Weissman, assistant prosecutor of the Mercer County Prosecutors’ office, was surprised Torney did not accept the PTI.

Earlier this week The Times of Trenton reported that Torney is not eligible for PTI for first-time offenders. The publication reported Torney was sentenced last June to a year of probation after he pleaded guilty two months earlier to a conspiracy to distribute less than one ounce of marijuana.

Now Torney faces a charge of aggravated hazing that carries a maxium penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine of $10,000 or less. Compared to him, DiDonato and Olsen may be getting off easy – too easy for the parents of Gary DeVercelly.

“We understand New Jersey law allows for first-time, non-violent offenders to seek Pretrial Intervention,” Gary Sr. and Julie DeVercelly said in a statement read by Weissman. “However, their actions, although non-violent, caused the death of a fine young man.”

The parents said their family has been devastated over the loss.

“Although we will never get our son back or our children’s big brother back, 36 months is a minimum sentence, said the DeVercellys.

Anthony Cambell, dean of students, would not comment on the latest court development. However, after months of Rider’s Judicial Affairs’ keeping quiet, he said the University may also bring charges against DiDonato, Olsen and Torney.

“We’ve held off on all that since they were on trial,” Campbell said. “We didn’t want to interfere with the criminal proceedings.”

Keith Kemo would not comment on whether University charges have been brought against Olsen and DiDonato yet. He couldn’t say because Torney was still in court.

“When we know it’s over, we will go forward and resume our investigation,” Campbell said.

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