Last updated on 2019.08.11
We now have charges in the January 24 incident in which drunk honyockers in a VIP box at a Rapid City Rush hockey game allegedly threw beer and racial insults at Indian kids from the American Horse School. Rapid City Police considered charges of assault, hate crime, and child abuse, but they now say the evidence uncovered by their month-long investigation only supports charges of disorderly conduct against Trace O'Connell of Philip.
American Horse School officials are not satisfied:
Some people at a meeting at American Horse School Wednesday say they were shocked when they heard only one misdemeanor charge was filed, against only one person.
School board member Justin Poor Bear says, "We feel there was injustice. Upset. Anger. A lot of anger. We feel like there was nothing done to help us."
...Thursday afternoon, we received a copy of a letter from Oglala Sioux Tribe president John Yellow Bird Steele to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder asking for a Justice Department investigation into what the tribal president describes as "racial harassment" [Jack Caudill, "American Horse School Reacts to Charge," KEVN-TV, 2015.02.19].
After the charge and O'Connell's name were made public Wednesday, O'Connell received so many death threats that law enforcement moved the O'Connell family out of their home. So says Patrick Duffy, O'Connell's client, who says the hockey game incident has been (in the words of SDPB's Charles Michael Ray) "blown up in social media":
"My client didn't say anything racist. We're gonna find out when we go to trial what really happened. But my client and I apologize, really, I apologize to the children of the Lakota Nation for how they have been made to feel about this. I look upon them with nothing but respect as does my client, and he is really heartbroken over this" [Patrick Duffy, interview with Charles Michael Ray, "Disorderly Conduct Charge Angers Some Native Parents," SDPB Radio, 2015.02.19].
Duffy makes a similar claim in the Rapid City Journal:
There are two casualties in this case, Duffy, O'Connell's attorney, said: the truth and the students who attended the hockey game. The truth, he said, has been tarnished by hearsay that exploded on social media.
“The real casualty has been these children. They only know what they have been told has happened,” Duffy said. “Obviously, all of us in South Dakota need a good dose of truth before this case can possibly be laid to rest” [Andrea Cook, "City: Philip Man Charged with Disorderly Conduct in Rush Hockey Game Incident," Rapid City Journal, 2015.02.18].
Look out, fellow media: it sounds like Duffy sees daylight for his client in putting us on trial. That should make us nervous, because Duffy is a heck of a lawyer.
And just to make things interesting, you can't dismiss Duffy as some white apologist for racism. He has taken tough cases defending Indians in the past, like the October 2013 police tasering of a Rosebud Sioux child and the landmark 2004–2005 Bone Shirt v. Hazeltine case on Indian voting rights in South Dakota. Sure, Duffy is a lawyer, paid to provide the legal representation to which every citizen is entitled, but when Patrick Duffy says he and his client respect Indians, he's got serious credibility to back that claim up.
Throwing beer and racial insults at kids is not acceptable. Neither are death threats that force an accused man to move his family out of their home for their own safety. Trace O'Connell now faces the glare of publicity and accountability before the law before the crime of which he is accused. He also has one of the best defense attorneys a man could ask for in a case like this. Let's hear the evidence the witnesses, the police, and the defense can bring forward through the proper legal process to help us understand what happened.