Administrators’ charges dropped
By Paul Szaniawski
Just three weeks after indictments were handed down against two University administrators, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office dismissed all charges against Dean of Students Dr. Anthony Campbell and Director of Greek life Ada Badgley.
On Aug. 28, Judge Maria M. Sypek signed off on the prosecutor’s request to drop aggravated hazing charges in relation to the death of Gary DeVercelly and serious bodily injury to William Williams. Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Skylar Weissman cited a lack of evidence to move forward with the case.
“I was very, very pleased with the result and was very pleased to get back to work,” Campbell said on, Aug. 30, his first day back on the job. “I’m glad to be back on campus and I’m glad about the way things worked out.”
Both Campbell and Badgley were faced with a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted of aggravated hazing, a fourth-degree felony. For such a crime, state law requires prosecutors to prove the suspects were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to move to trial.
“We could not find any evidence they were on campus or aware of the event,” said Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini.
Campbell’s attorney, Rocco Cipparone Jr., maintained Campbell was sleeping in his home and called the dismissal of indictments “a welcome relief, but it comes as no surprise. Dismissal was the only fair, just and inevitable result.”
In a statement released by David Laigaie, Badgley’s attorney, Badgley was “completely unaware of the events that led to Gary DeVercelly’s death.” It continued on to say Badgley had no idea the fraternity was having a party that night and no idea that new members of the fraternity would be provided alcohol or permitted to drink.
The indictments were announced on Aug. 3 when an investigatory grand jury concluded there was enough evidence to charge Campbell, Badgley and former Phi Kappa Tau (PKT) members Mike Torney, Adriano DiDonato and Dominic Olsen. From June 6 – July 27 the investigatory body met several times and examined police testimony, recorded statements of the fraternity’s executive officers and recordings of Rider administrators.
However, to continue with the aggravated hazing charge the prosecution needed to prove that Campbell and Badgley knowingly or recklessly allowed or acted to cause bodily harm to DeVercelly and Williams without a reasonable doubt.
On August 15 the prosecutor’s office reviewed the grand jury transcript. Nine days later five prosecutors including Bocchini and Weissman unanimously decided the evidence could not meet the requirement of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Although University President Mordechai Rozanski publicly welcomed the judge’s decision, Badgley and Campbell are not out of the woods yet. There is still the possibility of a civil suit from DeVercelly’s parents. Their attorney, Douglas Fierburg, would not comment about it at this time. According to the Associated Press, the DeVercelly family was angry about the prosecution’s recent decision.
The family’s attorney, Douglas Fierberg, said he was “very concerned” by the move to drop charges. He feels that the University is still responsible for DeVercelly’s death and even implicated DiDonato. Fierberg said since DiDonato was the fraternity’s house manager he was supervised by Badgley, who reports to Campbell.
“We have reason to believe that there was significant involvement by at least one university employee [DiDonato].”Cipparone would not be surprised if a civil suit is brought against Rider or Campbell.
“As Dean Campbell’s personal attorney I will speculate there will be a civil case but I cannot speak on that,” he said.
At this point Campbell declined to speak about further legal proceedings and only had caring words for the DeVercelly family.
“I still grieve and still feel for the DeVercelly’s and I still hope they know we are keeping our promises to them to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again,” Campbell said.
Now back at work, Campbell said his priority was to ensure a similar tragedy doesn’t occur. He said the outpouring of support from the Rider community helped him return.
“That community support got me more anxious to get to work,” Campbell said. “Those are the things that sustained me through a lot of the tough days.”
Badgley was scheduled to return to work yesterday. She couldn’t be reached for comment.