A Phillip man who is accused of disorderly conduct after he allegedly threw beer and shouted racial slurs at Native American students during a hockey game in January is set to stand trial next month.
But Trace O’Connell won’t sit in front of a jury or in a courtroom. Rather the trial, before a local magistrate, is set to take place in an auditorium at a local high school to accommodate the crowd that is expected to attend.
Some in the Native community aren’t happy with the misdemeanor charges and question if justice is being served.
Britt Long is an attorney who represents the families of some of the children involved in the incident during the Rush hockey game in January. Trace O’Connell who was seated in a corporate box above the group allegedly threw beer and shouted racial slurs at the native students below. Long questions why jail time was taken off the table by the judge in this case.
“We believe the judge wasn’t given the facts of what took place on that night. We believe the children. Much more took place, or more took place on that night that was presented to the judge. And for reasons unknown to us the complaint limited itself to statements of two adults who were not central to what took place and even the statements of those adults present troubling allegations,” says Long.
Long questions why the statements made by more than fifty students, other outside witnesses, and the defendant were not included in the initial complaint in this case. Mark Vargo is the Pennington County State’s Attorney. He states the charges brought in this case are based on the available evidence following a thorough police investigation. City Attorney Joel Landeen is now prosecuting this case.
“You know ultimately as a prosecutor what I need to do is look at the facts, and decide, is this a crime does this rise to this level. You know, people are upset that the charges aren’t more serious. The Disorderly Conduct is the most serious charge that I as a city attorney can bring,” says Landeen.
The attorney for Trace O’Connell did not return interview requests in time for this story deadline. The trial is set to take place at in the Performing Arts Theater in downtown Rapid City on July 22nd and 23rd.