by Jeff Frankel
Three University students are facing criminal charges from separate incidents that occurred last year, and one of the accused will discuss plea offers with a judge at the end of the month, according to a Mercer County Prosecutor spokesperson.
Casey DeBlasio said former president of the now disbanded Phi Kappa Tau fraternity, former student Michael Torney, of Randolph, N.J., will have a status conference with his attorney, Michael Rogers, and a judge on Feb. 25 at the Criminal Court House in Trenton to check his case’s standing.
“A status conference is just what it sounds like,” she said. “It’s a conference to discuss the status of the case.”
Torney, along with two other fraternity brothers, seniors Adriano DiDonato and Dominic Olsen, were charged in connection with the death of freshman Gary DeVercelly Jr., of Long Beach, Calif., after DeVercelly drank a lethal amount of alcohol.
DiDonato and Olsen were granted Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) to avoid trial and a possible prison term. Torney chose to skip PTI and opted to find more evidence. It is unsure if he will accept a plea deal or not.
“We’re working as hard as we can on the discovery and we’re not sure how it’s going to end up,” Rogers said. “It’s a little premature to say at this time.”
He added: “As of right now, it appears the case is going to go to trial. We feel that the charges are baseless and we expect to prevail.”
Another Rider student on the Princeton campus, sophomore Kieran Hunt, of Piscataway, N.J., was charged with strict liability, a first-degree offense, for allegedly injecting Justin Warfield, of Columbia, Md., with heroin. The freshman later died at University Medical Center at Princeton.
The case is still active but has yet to have a court date, DeBlasio said. Hunt is also facing 11 other charges, police said, and could face a maximum of 20 years in prison.
“We are looking through all the police reports,” said Hunt’s lawyer, John Hartmann. “There are a lot of issues to be resolved. There’s a lot of evidence to go through.”
Junior Nicholas Landrum, of Mullica Hill, N.J.; freshman Bryan Smith, of Freehold, N.J.; and freshman Robert Kelly, of Danby, Vt., were charged with harassment of Warfield.
The third student involved in a legal situation, junior John Goodleaf, also has an active case with the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office but does not have a court date, DeBlasio also said.
Goodleaf was allegedly involved in a fight at the former Zeta Beta Tau fraternity house on Sept. 29, resulting in multiple charges and an injury for visitor Andrew Endicott, Lawrence Township Police said. Both were also charged with underage drinking.
Goodleaf’s lawyer’s name was not available to DeBlasio as of press time.