Hazing Charges in Fraternity Pledge Death Dismissed Against Rider Officials

A judge on Tuesday dismissed charges against two Rider University officials in a case involving the drinking death of a fraternity pledge.

Superior Court Judge Maria Sypek approved a request by Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini to dismiss the aggravated hazing counts against Dean of Students Anthony Campbell and Ada Badgley, the school's director of Greek life.

The two administrators and three Rider students were indicted on Aug. 3 in connection with the death of freshman Gary DeVercelly Jr., 18, of Long Beach, Calif.

However, prosecutors said they decided there wasn't enough evidence to take the officials to trial.

"We could not meet our burden of proof," Assistant Prosecutor Skylar Weissman said.

DeVercelly died March 30, a day after drinking at a party at the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity on the private college's campus. Authorities said he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.426 percent, more than five times New Jersey's legal limit for driving.

Badgley was unaware of the events that led to DeVercelley's death, said her attorney, David Laigaie. "Ms. Badgley cannot be guilty of a crime for something that she did not participate in or have knowledge of," Laigaie said.

Campbell's attorney, Rocco Cipparone Jr., welcomed Tuesday's decision as "the correct and only result."

DeVercelly's father, Gary DeVercelly Sr., decried the decision.

"We're upset about it, that the charges are being dismissed, because we feel that Rider has responsibility — definitely has responsibility — in this issue," he said by phone from California.

He said no decision has been made whether to file a civil lawsuit against the university.

The three students — Adriano DiDonato, 22, residence director and house master of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house; Dominic Olsen, 21, and Michael J. Torney, 21 — still face charges and have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they could face up to 18 months in prison.