Hazing News

Rider President: No deal in death trial

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.

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-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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