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Hazing Prosecution Questioned

Posted Aug 15, 2007 6:12 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Mercer County, N.J., prosecutor Joseph Bocchini Jr. says his indictment of two college administrators in the death of a fraternity pledge sends a message that there is culpability for alcohol-related hazing incidents.

But defense lawyers told the New Jersey Law Journal that the real message of the case may be that a conviction will be difficult.

The aggravated hazing indictment charges Dean of Students Anthony Campbell and Director of Greek Life Ada Badgley in connection with the incident. Gary DeVercelly died after drinking as much as three-quarters of a bottle of vodka during the Phi Kappa Tau initiation at Rider University. (See this ABAJournal.com post for more information.)

Defense lawyer Alan Zegas of Chatham, N.J., said the indictment appears to be a stretch. "Simply because the dean of students was unsuccessful in preventing a tragic event from occurring doesn't render him criminally liable,” he told the legal newspaper. “It seems like his conduct is being looked at in an unfairly extreme way."

Prosecutors will need to prove the administrators knew of a pattern of violations that put them on notice a death was likely, and they did nothing to intervene, he said. But Zegas says civil suits are more appropriate in such cases.


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