RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A former Virginia Commonwealth University student pleaded guilty Tuesday to hazing and serving alcohol to a minor in connection with a 19-year-old freshman’s death from alcohol poisoning after a fraternity party.
Andrew White, 23, of Dulles pleaded guilty to the misdemeanors in Richmond Circuit Court, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. He faces up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine at sentencing in March.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Alison Martin said White did not make an agreement with the prosecution. He pleaded guilty to accept responsibility for his role, his lawyer, Stephen A. Mutnick, said in a statement.
White is one of 11 former Delta Chi members charged in Adam Oakes’ February death and the only one to plead guilty in the case. All 11 were charged with hazing and White and five others were also charged with serving alcohol to a minor.
Oakes’ parents, Eric and Linda, and cousin attended the plea hearing.
A prosecutor identified White as Oakes’ “big brother” in the fraternity. The police investigation found that Oakes was told to drink a large bottle of whiskey and the freshman from Loudoun County was found dead the next morning. The office of the chief medical examiner ruled that Oakes’ death was caused by alcohol poisoning.
Richmond police, campus police and the university launched investigations in the aftermath. VCU expelled the fraternity in June.
In September, the university announced that it would ban alcohol at fraternity and sorority events, publish misconduct instances online and pause new member recruitment. On the same day, two investigations of university Greek life on campus were released, finding that there are concerns about hazing and binge drinking at the university and staff has struggled to address them.
Oakes’ cousin, Courtney White, has become an advocate for ending hazing, pushing to make hazing a felony in Virginia.
“The punishment doesn’t fit the crime,” Courtney White said. “Change has to happen. … There’s a problem, and it’s happening right before our eyes. Right now, most kids, the most they get is a misdemeanor for killing my cousin. It should never be a misdemeanor to haze someone to death.”