RICHMOND, Va. — One of the 11 men charged in connection to the death of 19-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University freshman, Adam Oakes, was handed a two-year jail sentence on Tuesday, with both years suspended.
Andrew White, 23, pled guilty to unlawful hazing and purchasing alcohol for a minor back in December. Both charges were misdemeanors.
He was sentenced to 12 months for each charge, but won't spend any of that time behind bars as all 12 months were suspended for one year.
In addition to his suspended sentence, White must complete supervised probation, complete 100 hours of community service, take part in five anti-hazing presentations with the “Love Like Adam" foundation — a nonprofit established in honor of Oakes — and participate in a "restorative justice program" with the Oakes family.
The restorative justice program will be a mediated meeting between the Oakes family and White, with no lawyers, where they can ask him questions about what happened the night Oakes died.
Oakes was an underground pledge in the now-expelled Delta Chi fraternity.
White was Oakes' "big brother" in the fraternity, and was responsible for him during the night of his death in February 2021, according to Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Alison Martin.
Oakes was found dead on the dining room floor of an off-campus house on February, 27, 2021. His blood alcohol content levels were almost at .42 at the time of his death, according to prosecutors.
His cause of death was determined to be alcohol poisoning by the Medical Examiner's Office.
So far, White is the only person charged that has pleaded guilty.
Prior to announcing the sentence, prosecutors read several impact statements from Oakes' father, mother, and extended family.
Eric Oakes, Adam's father, wrote he began writing his letter on Christmas Day — four days after White pleaded guilty — and said “words can’t describe how miserable our lives are without him", adding it is hard to live in a world without his only child.
He said the family keeps the door to Adam's bedroom shut, because the "pain is so intense" and they rationalize it by saying he is sleeping.
He told White that he thought the job of a "big" was to protect the "little", but he failed that job on day one.
Oakes's mother, Linda, wrote she would be in agony "every second of every minute of every hour of every day" for the rest of her life. She added that “Delta Chi left him on the floor like a piece of trash".
Eric Oakes did add the family felt White was taking responsibility for his actions and hoped that he was on the road to recovery.
White also read a letter he had written to the family prior to sentencing. He said he was struck with a wave of "gut-wrenching pain" when he learned of Oakes' death and felt like he was living through a nightmare.
He said Oakes was never shamed or maltreated the night of the party in question, but was one where he claimed the two were celebrating the future together — and White's goal was to lift Oakes' spirits, not diminish them.
He finished by apologizing to the family and said he will forever regret that night.
White gave no comment to media when he left court with his family on Tuesday.
Following the hearing, Oakes' cousin Courtney White, no relation to Andrew, read a statement on behalf of the family.
"Over the past year, our family has endured unimaginable pain, sadness and grief. The emotional roller coaster we have been on since Adams death last February is indescribable. Not knowing what truly occurred, the night of Adam's death has been eating us alive," said White. "This plea deal isn't just for us to get answers. It's a chance for Andrew to support the systematic changes that we are trying to make in Virginia, he will support our efforts to combat hazing in our state and in our country. Thank you to the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, especially Alison Martin and her team. Without her her work, and resilience, we wouldn't be where we are today. This is a step towards justice for Adam."
Oakes' family said they had no comment about White's letter that he read in court.
The cases for the ten other men charged in Oakes' death are making their way through the courts.
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