Oklahoma fraternity chapter hires high-profile attorney
Oklahoma City — The attorney hired by the University of Oklahoma fraternity at the center of a national firestorm over a racially charged video clip said members have received death threats in recent days.
Stephen Jones, the high-powered attorney who once represented Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, said Friday that he had been retained by the Oklahoma chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity to handle legal issues involving the chapter’s suspension and eviction from its fraternity house.
He openly questioned whether the organization’s free speech rights have been violated by both the campus and fraternity’s national body.
Jones said he has not been retained to initiate any litigation, but to ensure that the due process rights of members are protected from actions by the university and national chapter.
He said there also are some legal questions about the fraternity house that OU President David Boren ordered closed after the release of the video, which showed some members engaging in a racist chant that referenced lynching and said African-Americans would never be allowed to become members.
“All of us agree that the actions which led to this matter at the University of Oklahoma are inexcusable,” Jones said. “Let me be clear. There is no justification for what occurred. Zero.”
He said the bus on which the students were caught making the chant was one of five charter buses that were taking members to a Founder’s Day party at a country club in Oklahoma City on Saturday.
“We’re talking about one incident with nine seconds of video, on one of five buses,” Jones said.
Jones said he does not represent two fraternity members who Boren ordered expelled on Tuesday for creating a hostile learning environment after they were identified as leading the chant, but Jones said both young men withdrew from the university on Monday before they were expelled. A spokeswoman for OU would not confirm that, citing student privacy laws.
A spokesman for the fraternity’s national headquarters said Friday that officials with the Oklahoma chapter have stopped communicating with them.
“We have not heard from the Oklahoma chapter,” spokesman Brandon Weghorst said. “They have not engaged us since the time the chapter was closed.”
Weghorst said the national fraternity is moving forward with plans to expel all of the suspended members of the OU chapter, a move that will permanently revoke their membership.
Los Angeles Times contributed.
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