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Alumni of Shamed Fraternity Hire Attorney

NORMAN, Okla. (CN) - The racist chants of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma are "seriously flawed," but its members have constitutional rights that cannot be violated in a "rush to judgment," an attorney for SAE alumni said.

The 9-second video posted to YouTube on March 8 shows fraternity members on a bus chanting "there will never be a nigger in SAE."

Condemnation was swift. University of Oklahoma officials expelled two members and threw the rest out of the fraternity house.

Attorney Stephen Jones, with Jones Otjen & Davis in Oklahoma City, said at a news conference Friday that he was hired by members of the local chapter's board of directors and does not represent the expelled students.

Jones said the fraternity has been unfairly "painted" with a "tar brush as bigots."

"There are issues about First Amendment rights, due process rights and real estate issues, but we are still gathering documents," Jones said.

Jones declined to say whether a lawsuit against the school was imminent, expressing hope for a solution without litigation.

He said the bus where the video was recorded was on its way to a Founder's Day party at an Oklahoma City country club on March 7.

"We are talking about one incident with nine seconds of video, on one of five buses," Jones said.

Members of the OU SAE chapter have received death threats since the video was posted and are afraid to go to class, Jones said.

"We believe that working together in a positive manner we can find a solution that is acceptable to everyone and make this a teachable moment and an educational moment for what is a seriously flawed incident," he said.

Evanston, Ill.-based SAE said Friday that the national organization was not involved in hiring Jones and has "no further information about his intentions."

"Our priority now remains squarely focused on making sure we continue to proactively address this issue in a way that reflects our zero-tolerance for any kind of discrimination and upholds the values of our fraternity," SAE said in a statement.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma expressed similar sentiments, saying OU "must also respect First Amendment principles that are central to the mission" of every school.

"Any sanction imposed on students for their speech must therefore be consistent with the First Amendment and not merely a punishment for vile and reprehensible speech; courts have consistently and rightly ruled as such," the ACLU said in a statement Thursday. "Absent information that is not at our disposal, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which a court would side with the university on this matter." Jones previously defended Oklahoma City federal building bomber Timothy McVeigh.

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