Rider U. ex-frat president shuns plea deal in hazing death
by Linda Stein/The Times
Monday December 17, 2007, 10:44 AM
The president of a now disbanded fraternity Monday turned down a plea offer to a charge of fourth-degree hazing that would have resulted in probation and community service in Rider University case that resulted in the alcohol poisoning death of Gary DeVercelly Jr. an 18-year-old freshman.
Martin Griff/The TimesRider University student Michael Torney leaves Mercer County Superior Court in Trenton with his parents on Aug. 10.
However, Superior Court Judge Mitchel Ostrer ordered Michael Torney, 21, to submit to an alcohol and drug use evaluation as a condition of his bail. Torney is free on his own recognizance.
Two other student defendants were admitted into the Pretrial Intervention Program, which is open to first-time, nonviolent offenders. Charges were dismissed against two university administrators who had been indicted by a Mercer County grand jury, an action that caused consternation among university officials nationwide.
Gary DeVerchelly Sr., who was in the courtroom for the brief status conference, said, “It’s been a terrible tragedy for our family. We feel (Torney) is partly responsible.”
Torney, of Randolph, had hired a new lawyer as co-counsel, Edward Bilinkas, who said he needed time to familiarize himself with the case.
“I know this kid,” Bilinkas said. “He’s a good kid. We want to make sure all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted.” Bilinkas said that although Torney was president of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity, he was not in the room when the drinking occured and did not supply liquor to those who were there.