Torney agrees to pay $150,000 in civil suit

Former PKT President Michael Torney walks out of the Mercer County Superior Court in Trenton with his parents in August.
By Jess Hoogendoorn

The former Phi Kappa Tau (PKT) president has reached a settlement in the wrongful death suit brought by the family of freshman Gary DeVercelly Jr.,18, of Long Beach, Calif.
Michael Torney, 22, of Randolph, N.J., agreed to pay the DeVercelly family $150,000 and provide information pertinent to the lawsuit against the University and the national fraternity. The settlement will be paid by the Torney family’s homeowners insurance, The Times of Trenton reported.
The DeVercelly family filed the civil suit last December in response to DeVercelly’s death on March 30, 2007. DeVercelly died at a Trenton hospital two days after a night of heavy drinking at the PKT fraternity house on the University campus. He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.426 percent.
Torney attended the County College of Morris for one year before transferring to Rider. He now attends Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.
Torney is being represented by criminal defense lawyers Michael Rogers and Edward Bilinkas, who was later hired as co-counsel. Rogers asserts that Torney was not at the fraternity party and did not supply any of the alcohol. Torney is said to have been studying for an exam and therefore had no involvement in the events that led to DeVercelly’s death, The Times reported.
Although Torney has settled in the civil case, he still faces a criminal charge of aggravated hazing. Aggravated hazing is considered a fourth-degree offense and carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine that is not to exceed $10,000, according to a Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office press release. Torney’s next court date for the criminal charges has not been scheduled yet, according to Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Angelo Onofrio.
Two other fraternity members, seniors Adriano DiDonato, and Dominic Olsen, along with Anthony Campbell, dean of students, and Ada Badgley, director of Greek Life, were also charged with aggravated hazing. DiDonato and Olsen were granted Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) to avoid trial and a possible prison term. Torney was unable to apply for PTI because of a prior offense. The charges against the two administrators were dropped.
The wrongful death lawsuit also named the University and the national fraternity.
The original figures for the suit were $50 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages, as well as other damages. The insurance company of the former Rider chapter of PKT has been asked to pay a claim to the DeVercelly family. However, the company filed its own lawsuit in federal court in hopes of alleviating itself of any financial obligation.
The suit against Rider is ongoing. The University was accused of mismanaging and disregarding its fraternities and having less supervision over the Greek houses than the residence halls.
The University disagrees with the allegations and believes it took the correct action in the aftermath of the incident.

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