August 5, 2007
Two Rider University officials, including the dean of students, and three students were indicted Friday in the death of a freshman after a drinking binge at a campus fraternity house.
The school dissolved the Phi Kappa Tau chapter Friday, and authorities said the aggravated hazing charges should send a message to students and administrators alike.
"The standards of college life, when it relates to alcohol, need to be policed carefully," prosecutor Joseph Bocchini Jr. said.
Gary DeVercelly Jr., of Long Beach, Calif., had a blood-alcohol level of 0.426 percent, more than five times New Jersey's legal limit for driving, when he was pronounced dead March 30 at a Trenton hospital, authorities said. He died the day after drinking at the Phi Kappa Tau house on the private school's campus in central New Jersey.
Further action related to the officials and students involved is to be decided next week, university spokesman Earle Rommel said.
The five officials and students charged were Ada Badgley, 31, the university's director of Greek life; Anthony Campbell, 51, the dean of students; Adriano DiDonato, 22, a student who was also the residence director and house master of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house; Dominic Olsen, 21, pledge master of Spring 2007 Phi Kappa Tau pledge class; and Michael J. Torney, 21, the chapter president.
If convicted, the officials and fraternity members would face a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
"We find it terribly disturbing that the university and its officials were apparently directly involved in the circumstances leading to our son's death," DeVercelly Sr. said.
The investigation revealed some of the pledges drank entire bottles of hard liquor in under an hour.
There were also charges at the municipal level against 15 people accused of providing alcohol to minors, with another 23 charged with underage drinking. Three students also face drug charges after a search of the fraternity house, Bocchini said.
The national council of Oxford, Ohio-based Phi Kappa Tau voted July 22 to suspend the Rider University chapter's charter, said the fraternity's chief executive, Steve Hartman.