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Former VCU student pleads guilty to charges in Adam Oakes's death

Posted at 11:18 AM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 12:33:16-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Andrew White, one of 11 men charged in connection to the death of 19-year-old VCU freshman Adam Oakes, plead guilty to unlawful hazing and purchasing alcohol for a minor during his court appearance Tuesday.

Both charges are misdemeanors, but details of the plea are still developing. White is scheduled to be back in court for his sentencing on March 1.

According to Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Alison Martin, Oakes was an underground pledge in the now-expelled Delta Chi fraternity. White was Oakes's "big brother" in the fraternity, and was responsible for him during the night of his death in February, Martin said.

White was said to have given Oakes a handle of Jack Daniels to finish at a party hosted by the fraternity that night. Prosecutors said witnesses reported seeing Oakes very drunk throughout the night, while others said he was fine.

Witnesses also said Oakes was put to sleep on the floor of the party house on West Clay Street, and one person saw him still lying there around 6 a.m. when they left the house.

Oakes was found dead on dining room floor, and 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.

White's lawyer, Steve Mutnick, argued that witnesses believe Oakes was enjoying himself and making his own drinks. He also said White stayed with him until 3 a.m. and cared for Oakes while he was sleeping.

Oakes's family was in the court for the plea on Tuesday. They released the following statement:

"As much as we want to see this plea as a glimmer of hope in Adam's case, it is only one of 11. The pain and heartache has only just begun, and there is such a long road ahead for our family. We hold tight to Adam's memory and let that drive our actions toward change against hazing. He was a genuinely nice person with an amazingly warm personality and heart. Adam loved everyone he encountered, including Andrew, and unfortunately that opened him up to what occurred that night. Someone he saw as a new friend, mentor, and companion disregarded the fact that Adam was a human being, that he was someone's son, grandson, nephew, and cousin. He had a strong misunderstanding of what it is to be a big brother. A big brother is someone who is supposed to look out for you, protect you, and teach you what it means to be a brother in the fraternity. To us, Andrew failed his first night on the job. His failure to fulfill his role cost Adam his life. Adam's first night as a Delta Chi will always be his last."

19-year-old Ben Corado also made a court appearance on Tuesday for his charges of unlawful hazing and purchasing alcohol for a minor. His next appearance will be in February for a jury trial.