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Shuttered Oklahoma frat hires ‘high-profile’ lawyer to represent members

Alumni of the now-shuttered Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at the University of Oklahoma have hired a “high-profile” attorney, Stephen Jones, to represent the frat members, News on 6 reported:

Jones says he does not represent two members of the fraternity who were expelled from the university after they were caught on video leading a racist chant that referenced lynching and said African-Americans would never be allowed as members.

Jones told KFOR “the last thing I want to do is go to court”:

Jones says there have been death threats and assaults against some of the members of SAE, adding that they are afraid to go to class.

He says there are over 100 local members, but the video only showed one incident on one of five buses.

Jones says he is working to protect their due process rights, their First Amendment rights and the group’s Fourteenth Amendment rights.

NBC News said Republican Jones has a history with Democrat David Boren, the university president – he challenged Boren for a Senate seat in 1990. And he has a history of taking unpopular cases:

Jones represented a college student who waved a Viet Cong flag on campus in the 1970s, and was fired by his firm as a result. He also went to bat for Yippie radical Abbie Hoffman, who was accused of trying to start a riot with a speech at Oklahoma State University.

In 1995, he was appointed to defend [Oklahoma City bomber Timothy] McVeigh after other lawyers dropped out because they knew some of the bombing victims. McVeigh was convicted and put to death.

Boren also responded to criticisms that the school doled out a minor punishment to an athlete who punched a woman so hard in the face it knocked her unconscious, in contrast to its immediate expulsion of the two frat leaders of the racist chant:

There is no double standard at the University of Oklahoma. We punish bad behavior without regard to race. He was suspended from the team for a year and was not allowed to play. He was also ordered to perform community service, which he has completed. We punish bad behavior without regard to whether a person is an athlete or non-athlete, black or white. It is sheer and utter nonsense to make such a statement. We are colorblind at the University of Oklahoma and make no distinction between athletes and non-athletes. We have even taken one case to the state Supreme Court to enforce the findings of our internal disciplinary process under Title IX, in a case involving a student athlete.

Public interest litigator and George Washington University professor John Banzhaf says the frat members have a good case, in more ways than one:

The Oklahoma University student rights code also contains guarantees, not only related to academic freedom and freedom of expression generally, but also the right to notice and a hearing which wasn’t provided.

Many courts have said that such language constitutes a binding agreement on behalf of the university – a contract between it and each student – and that violation can likewise create legal liability.

Finally, most states and local governments have laws which provide legal protection against people being summarily evicted from their dwellings, and these would probably provide an additional cause of legal action.  This is particularly true of the many brothers who were not even on the bus, and were completely unaware for what occurred. These students, and any on the bus who did not participate in the singing, have been thrown out onto the street with their belongings despite their lack of any culpability.

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IMAGE: Artie White/Flickr

About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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