April 4, 1995 in City

Law School Unites Against Racist Letter $2,500 Reward Offered For Identification Of Author

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Gonzaga Law School students and faculty on Monday said they were shocked by a racist letter given to four black law students last weekend.

They even took up a collection to offer a reward for information leading to the letter-writer.

About 200 students and school officials crammed into a lounge in the basement of the law school Monday to hear what is being done about the letter.

The Rev. Bernard Coughlin, president of GU, told the crowd the letter “has no place in any university. It certainly has no place in a university such as this.”

Law students, who wore ribbons Monday to show their support for minority students and racial diversity at GU, are planning to rally at noon today outside the law school, E702 Boone.

During the meeting, law Professor John Maurice said he would put up $500 of his own money to start a fund to identify the perpetrator. By Monday evening, the fund had reached $2,500.

The letter was addressed to Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler and was supposedly from a group called Law Students for a Pure America.

Butler said Monday he did not receive the letter in the mail, but was given a copy by television news people. He said he doesn’t believe the writer is serious about taking action against the minority students.

“I don’t think it really meant what it says,” Butler said.

School officials said they believe the letter was written by a first-year law student acting alone. The case was turned over to Spokane police detectives.

The FBI was asked to look at the case, but declined to investigate because there was no evidence that the writer used the U.S. Postal Service to deliver the letter, an FBI official said Monday.

Law School Dean John Clute said the letter is threatening enough to be considered malicious harassment. In Washington, malicious harassment is a felony.

Spokane police Sgt. Earl Ennis said detectives are reviewing the letter to determine whether the person making the threat has the means to carry it out.

Copies of the letter were enlarged and posted on the walls of the law school by indignant students wanting to increase awareness of the racist message.

“Some of us came to this school because we wanted an all-white campus,” the letter said. “If we wanted to be in the middle of the ghetto we know where the monkeys live.”

The letter asks Butler for help in getting the black students out of the law school by next year. The writer claimed to be in the same classes as some of the victims, and claimed to have the home addresses for the black students, as well as other minorities.

The letter misspells the name of one student, and uses poor grammar.

A separate notice accompanied the letter. “Hey, Niggers,” it said, “We intend to make sure you do not com4e back next year …. Be ware or all of you will be extremely sorry.”

(The grammatical errors were part of the notice.)

The four targets of the letter are first-year students. There are about 30 minorities in the class of about 200.

One of the black students targeted in the letter said he was angry when he first read the letter, and then he felt helpless.

“What can you say? What can you do?” said Reggie Dunn.

He said he was heartened by the outpouring of support by those who are condemning the letter.

“That letter isn’t indicative of the student body,” he said.

Dunn and the other three students received the letters on Saturday, April Fools’ Day, in personal mail folders at the law school.

The incident followed an appearance on March 27 by Floyd Cochran, the former political director for the Aryan Nations who now renounces white supremacy.

Butler and other members of the Aryan Nations were at Cochran’s campus appearance.

Juliana Repp, president of the Multi-cultural Law Caucus at the school, said it is disturbing to think a law student would write such a racist letter. “It was very stunning,” she said.

Ron Goad, director of campus security, said patrols are being increased around the law school, and the homes of minority law students are being watched more closely.

“It’s a very low deed to write a letter of this nature,” Goad said.

University officials said they would bring counselors to the law school to talk about the problem of racism with anyone who wants the help.

Cherie Berthon, a Spokane board member for the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment, said the letter writer clearly intended to scare minority students.

She said the people of Spokane reject the message. “The broad community is offering its support,” she said.

School officials said they are investigating one possible lead. Last fall during a lecture by a trial lawyer, a law student walked out of the session when the lecturer criticized Republican presidents for not appointing more black judges.

Dean Clute, in a memo to university executives Monday, said, “We will not be deterred in our efforts to enhance the richness students of color and of culturally diverse backgrounds bring to campus.”

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