RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The former president of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Delta Chi fraternity has been found guilty of misdemeanor hazing in connection to the death of 19-year-old Adam Oakes.
Oakes, a VCU freshman who died of alcoholic intoxication, was found dead in February 2021 at an off-campus house on West Clay Street after a “big-little” Delta Chi fraternity party.
Eleven members of the fraternity were charged with hazing in the case and Delta Chi, which had been suspended before Oakes’ time at the university, was expelled by VCU in May 2021.
Jason Mulgrew, the chapter’s president at the time, pleaded no contest in Richmond Circuit Court on Thursday after being charged with unlawful hazing last September.
Richmond’s Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael E. Hollomon told 8News that Judge Claire Cardwell found Mulgrew guilty of misdemeanor hazing after hearing a summary of the evidence in the case. Pleading no contest has the same effect as pleading guilty without admitting or denying guilt.
Mulgrew, who Holloman said helped organize the party where Oakes died, will not spend time in jail after receiving a 12-month suspended sentence under a plea agreement.
But the agreement remains in place only if he adheres to a set of conditions. According to Hollomon, the conditions include:
- 150 hours of community service work at a non-profit agency
- Participate in Restorative Justice Program with the Oakes family
- Participate in 10 community service presentations on hazing organized by the Love Like Adam Foundation
- Supervised probation and good behavior
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined the cause of Oakes’ death to be “ethanol toxicity,” a type of alcohol poisoning, and ruled it “an accident.”
His death inspired legislation that will require student organizations at Virginia colleges to go through hazing prevention training.
“Adam’s Law,” passed by the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year, will compel student organizations at every public and private college and university to give each of its members, prospective members and their advisors “extensive, current, and in-person education about hazing, the dangers of hazing, including alcohol intoxication, and hazing laws and institution policies.”
“Hazing is a dangerous, destructive, and deadly tradition in student organizations,” Oakes’ family wrote in a statement provided to 8News reporter Olivia Jaquith. His family added that hazing doesn’t just happen in fraternities and sororities and they hope the people charged in the case will learn from the tragedy.