OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The alumni of a fraternity chapter at the University of Oklahoma shut down after members were caught engaging in a racist chant have hired a high-profile Oklahoma attorney to represent them and have severed communications with its national headquarters.
Attorney Stephen Jones, who gained national prominence as the attorney for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, confirmed Friday that he was hired by alumni members who served on the board of the university's local Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter.
Jones said 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.
He said he was planning to meet with his clients Friday, and he couldn't say whether he would represent current members of the fraternity who are being investigated by university officials for their role in the chant.
"Obviously there are issues about First Amendment rights, due process and real estate issues, but we're still gathering documents," said Jones, who has also represented several Oklahoma politicians in high-profile corruption cases.
Jones also ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for U.S. Senate in 1990 against David Boren, who is now OU's president.
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.
Meanwhile, Weghorst said the national fraternity is continuing its investigation into SAE chapters at other universities, and planned to release an update on those investigations later Friday. He confirmed Thursday that investigations were underway into chapters at the University of Texas-Austin and Louisiana Tech University in Ruston.
The national SAE fraternity has said some allegations of racism, which it acknowledges, refer to incidents from more than 20 years ago. But the fraternity maintains that none of its official chants are racist and that members of the Oklahoma chapter likely learned the one that was recorded from fellow chapter members.
In Boulder, Colorado, the SAE chapter hung a banner this week outside their fraternity house that reads: "Not on our campus. Not in our chapter. Colorado Chi brothers stand against racism or hate of any kind."
The University of Washington in Seattle is investigating allegations that members of the SAE chapter there made racial slurs and obscene gestures to black students during a demonstration last month. The UW fraternity chapter's president, Michael Hickey, told the Seattle Times he believes the slurs came from nonmembers.