By Olivia Tattory
The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office is moving forward with charges of aggravated hazing brought against three Rider students following the death of freshman Gary DeVercelly, who died March 30 after a night of binge drinking at the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house, said spokesman Angelo Onofrio.
The students, former PKT pledge master Dominic Olsen, 21 of Kenilworth N.J.; former fraternity president Michael Torney, 21, of Randolph N.J.; and former house manager Adriano DiDonato, 22, of Princeton, all pleaded not guilty in hearings in August.
According to Onofrio, a Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) Program is a possibility for all three. PTI provides defendants, usually first-time offenders, the opportunity to avoid the traditional process of ordinary prosecution. If the program is successfully completed, the conviction is wiped from the defendant’s record.
The indictments, released on Aug. 3, “alleges 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.”
Aggravated hazing is a fourth-degree charge and carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
“Adriano, like everybody else in that frat is deeply saddened by what took place,” said DiDonato’s lawyer, Paul Norris.
Lawyers for Olsen and Torney did not return phone calls to their offices.
Douglas Feirberg, a nationally recognized lawyer specializing in hazing, is representing the DeVercelly family. Fierberg said the DeVercelly’s are still trying to cope with the loss of their son and did not confirm or deny whether the family’s pursuing a lawsuit against the University.
Along with the three indicted students, 15 individuals have been charged with providing alcoholic beverages to underage persons, a disorderly persons offense and 23 individuals have been charged with underage drinking related to the March party. Three students were charged with drug-related offenses.
A list of those charges can be found on page 8.