Dean Pleads Not Guilty in Hazing Case
Thursday August 9, 2007 10:01 PM
By CHRIS NEWMARKER
Associated Press Writer
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – Rider University’s dean of students pleaded not guilty Thursday to criminal hazing in connection with the death of a freshman who had been binge drinking at a fraternity house.
The dean, Anthony Campbell, was one of two school officials and three students charged with aggravated hazing. He did not speak at Thursday’s court hearing.
The student, 18-year-old 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 hospital, authorities have said. He died one day after drinking at a party at the Phi Kappa Tau house on the private school’s campus in central New Jersey.
Prosecutors said the party was a special event in which pledges such as DeVercelly would drink with fraternity members. Some of the pledges drank entire bottles of hard liquor in less than an hour, prosecutors said.
The four others charged are Ada Badgley, 31, the university’s director of Greek life; 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.
DiDonato pleaded not guilty on Wednesday. Badgley, Olsen and Torney have yet to appear in court.
Before Thursday’s hearing, Campbell’s lawyer, Rocco Cipparone Jr., said his client wasn’t at the party and didn’t play any role in arranging it.
“I’m not aware of any set of facts and circumstances that could remotely serve as a basis for a conviction of a crime,” he said.
Standing with Campbell after the hearing, Cipparone said his client had received many supportive phone calls and e-mails. He described Campbell as a “very caring dean of students.”
If convicted of the hazing charge, the officials and fraternity members would face a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine as high as $10,000.
Prosecutors said the defendants “knowingly or recklessly organized, promoted, facilitated or engaged in conduct which resulted in serious bodily injury” to DeVercelly and another student, William Williams, who survived.
Doug Fierberg, a lawyer who has represented hazing victims since the mid-1990s, called the case a watershed that shows universities must take hazing seriously. DeVercelly’s parents have retained him.
Henry [Hank] Nuwer, a professor who has studied campus hazing for years, said it would be difficult for prosecutors to prove Campbell and Badgley committed a crime.
“I haven’t seen the reckless disregard you would need for a conviction,” said Nuwer, an assistant professor of journalism at Franklin College in Franklin, Ind.
Campbell and Badgley still work at the university. A university spokesman, Jonathan Meer, has said a decision on their status is expected next week.
Cipparone, Campbell’s lawyer, has said that his client may need some time off for his legal proceedings, but that he fully intends to continue working at the university.
The school dissolved the Phi Kappa Tau chapter on Friday.