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Breaking News from Rider: Gary Devercelly death

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5 Indicted in NJ Drinking Death
Friday, August 3, 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 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, of Long Beach, Calif., had a blood alcohol level more than five times the legal limit when he was pronounced dead March 30 at a Trenton hospital, a 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.

"This has been a very painful time for the university family and the university," he said. "We recognize that alcohol abuse by college students is a national challenge."

DeVercelly's blood alcohol level at the time of his death was .426, authorities said.

Friends of the freshman said DeVercelly, 18, told them he would be drinking vodka during pledge initiation at the fraternity house, The Times of Trenton has reported.

The five officials and students charged were:

_ Ada Badgley, 31, of Lawrenceville, the university's director of Greek life.

_ Anthony Campbell, 51, of Lawrenceville, the dean of students.

_ Adriano DiDonato, 22, of Princeton, residence director and house master of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house.

_ Dominic Olsen, 21, of Kenilworth, pledge master of Spring 2007 Phi Kappa Tau pledge class.

_ Michael J. Tourney, 21, of Randolph, 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.

Bocchini wouldn't discuss evidence in detail, but he has said previously that the investigation revealed some of the pledges drank entire bottles of hard liquor in under an hour.

Twenty-three other people face charges of providing alcohol to minors or underage drinking related to the event. Three students also face drug charges after a search of the fraternity house, Bocchini said.

A message left at Badgley's university office was not immediately returned and a home number was not listed. Campbell didn't immediately return a call to his house. Phone numbers for the three university students also were not listed and it was unclear if any had attorneys.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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