On Campus

Ex-frat leader settles lawsuit with family of dead student

Student drank himself to death during a frat party

The former president of a fraternity at Rider University has settled a lawsuit with the parents of a pledge who drank himself to death last year, the family’s attorney said Friday.

Michael Torney agreed to pay $150,000 to the family of Gary DeVercelly Jr. and agreed to provide information to help the family with their lawsuit against the university, the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity and others over their son’s death.

Douglas Fierberg, a lawyer for DeVercelly’s parents, said Torney’s cooperation “will result in the release of significant evidence establishing the responsibility of Rider University and Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.”

Torney still faces criminal charges of aggravated hazing. Fierberg said he could not characterize the evidence Torney could provide until after the criminal case is settled.

DeVercelly, an 18-year-old freshman from Long Beach, Calif., was a pledge at Phi Kappa Tau when he attended a party there on March 28, 2007, and drank most of a bottle of vodka. He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.426 percent, or more than five times New Jersey’s legal limit for driving, when he was pronounced dead March 30 at a Trenton hospital, authorities have said.

Prosecutors initially charged two Rider administrators in the deaths along with Torney and two other students.

The charges were eventually dropped against the officials at the private central New Jersey college, and the other students entered a pretrial intervention program that could allow them to have their record cleared.

Torney, a 22-year-old from Randolph, has previously rejected plea deals. A lawyer said he was not in the room with DeVercelly and did not supply alcohol for the party.

Neither Torney’s civil nor criminal defense lawyer was available to comment Friday.

The fraternity has since closed its chapter on campus.

– With a report from AP

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