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Rider from The Ledger

Excerpt: ider students seek alternative to trial

Intervention route would clear records

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Two Rider University students who were indicted Aug. 3 on charges of aggravated hazing in connection with the alcohol-poisoning death of Rider freshman Gary DeVercelly Jr. are seeking admission to the Pre-Trial Intervention program.
Adriano DiDonato, of Princeton Township, and Dominic Olsen, of Kenilworth, appeared in state Superior Court in Trenton on Monday morning before Judge Mitchell Ostrer to apply to the PTI program. The program is for first-time offenders who have not committed a violent crime, said Casey DeBlasio, spokeswoman for the Mercer County prosecutor's office.
A third student, Michael Torney, of Randolph, is scheduled to appear before Judge Ostrer on Sept. 17, Ms. DeBlasio said.
All three students have pleaded not guilty to the charge of aggravated hazing, a fourth-degree crime that carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
"We are aware of their application to the PTI program," Ms. DeBlasio said. "They apply through the court, not the Mercer County prosecutor's office."
Mr. DiDonato and Mr. Olsen are slated to appear before Judge Ostrer on Oct. 1 to learn the possible terms and conditions of the PTI, Ms. DeBlasio said. If they successfully complete the PTI program, the charge would be dismissed and they would not have a criminal record, she said.
Mr. DiDonato was the residence director and house master for the now defunct Rider chapter of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. Mr. Olsen was the pledge master for the spring 2007 pledge class — of which Mr. DeVercelly was a member — and Mr. Torney was the fraternity president.
A charge of aggravated hazing leveled against Rider University Dean of Students Anthony Campbell and Director of Greek Life Ada Badgley was dismissed by Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini Jr. last month.
The three students and two administrators were indicted on charges of aggravated hazing by a Mercer County grand jury last month in connection with the alcohol-poisoning death of Mr. DeVercelly in March. The 18-year-old freshman sought to join the fraternity, which was dissolved on the Rider campus after the death.
Mr. DeVercelly died after a night of binge drinking at the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house on campus. He fell into a coma March 28 and was rushed to Capital Health System's Fuld Campus, where he died of alcohol poisoning March 30. His blood alcohol content was .426. In New Jersey, a motorist is considered legally drunk when his or her blood alcohol content is .08.
William Williams, another student and Phi Kappa Tau pledge, also was admitted to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. He was treated and released later that day.

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. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

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--http://realalaskadaily.com and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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