Three years probation for Rider frat president in DeVercelly case
by Linda Stein/The Times
TRENTON -- The former president of a Rider University fraternity who had pleaded guilty to hazing in an incident that took a teenager's life, was sentenced Tuesday to three years probation.
Michael Torney, 22, of Randolph, had previously sought the university and fraternity's help in stopping hazing practices and was not directly involved in the binge drinking ceremony that took the life of Gary DeVercelly Jr. in March 2007. The freshman student, 18, drank nearly two-thirds of a bottle of vodka during the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity's "Big Little Night" party and fell into a coma.
Torney's lawyer, Michael Rogers, said Torney had summoned police and an ambulance when he learned the DeVercelly was in trouble. Rogers noted that "binge-drinking is a problem not limited to fraternities." Assistant Prosecutor Skylar Weissman said that he hoped that Torney had learned from the incident and that he would teach others the dangers of excessive drinking.
Weissman read a poignant letter from DeVercelly's parents, Gary DeVercelly Sr. and Julie DeVercelly, who live in Long Branch, Calif.. 'Our family has been forever harmed by the tragic and senseless death of our son, Gary DeVercelly Jr., due to a fraternity hazing ritual at Rider University," the letter said. "Though not a participant of the hazing which caused our son's death, Mike Torney has taken responsibility for what happened... Gary's absence will be felt at every evening meal, special occasion and family gathering."
Superior Court Judge Mitchel Ostrer also ordered Torney to perform 100 hours of community service, refrain from drinking alcohol and undergo alcohol counseling.