Rushmore Plaza Civic Center

Man Accused of Hurling Beer, Racial Slurs at Native American Kids Will Not Face Jail Time, Judge Says

Simon Moya-Smith

The man who is suspected of hurling beer and racial slurs at a group of Native American kids at a hockey game in Rapid City, South Dakota, in January will not face jail time, a judge said Thursday.

Trace O'Connell, 41, of Philip, South Dakota, is accused of pouring beer on a group of Native American students during a Rapid City Rush hockey game at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. He is also accused of telling the kids to "go back to the reservation."

RELATED: Native Americans in Minneapolis Nearly Nine Times More Likely Than Whites to be Arrested

After a lengthy investigation by Rapid City Police, O’Connell was eventually charged with disorderly conduct, and would have faced up to 30 days in jail if convicted. But on Thursday, Fourth Circuit Magistrate Judge Eric Strawn removed the possibility of any jail time.

"I will not consider actual internment, but a fine," Strawn told Rapid City Attorney Joel Landeen and O’Connell’s defense attorney Mike Butler, the Associated Press reported. Strawn said he based his decision on a review of the case as well as O’Connell’s lack of a criminal history.

Landeen said he was disappointed by Strawn’s decision. “I was prepared to seat a jury and go forward,” he told the Associated Press.

In February, family members of the victims were enraged when they were told O’Connell would not face charges of child abuse or assault.

Native Americans in Rapid City and nearby Pine Ridge reservation have said the incident is indicative of the climate of racism against Native Americans that is deeply rooted in the city’s white inhabitants. Native American families have said they fear allowing their children to travel to Rapid City.

O’Connell has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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Glamtrashtic's picture
Submitted by Glamtrashtic on
It is typical that this man will not face jail time for what he has done to these innocent Indian children. I would certainly try to pursue a civil suit against him maybe a class-action suit. And for the life of me I don't know why Indians continue to give and support businesses and individuals like this when they clearly don't give a damn. Hell this is the same city where they carved KKK into the stomach of an old blind man. They would be better off to again put up signs stating "We don't serve Indians" or Indians are not allowed on premises". At least an Indian would know they are not wanted and don't have to provide monies to them or subject their children to out right hatred.

bullbear's picture
Submitted by bullbear on
The judge has essentially said that the racist O'Connell is guilty by his decision to punish him with a fine. Not good enough ! The case needs to go to civil court. Why? Native American families fear sending their children to a city for public events that are required to provide security and safety for all attendees. These youth have suffered emotionally and psychologically. There must be a claim for the amount of suffering they will endure each time they step into Rapid City. The time has come to play hard ball for the welfare of all Native Americans and other racial ethnic groups who have suffered far too long at the hands of a residents who openly practice racial and religious prejudices. If no further legal action is taken, one racist will be left off lightly and send the message to the public and tribal members that it is an acceptable practice. Stand up for these children and others that will follow!

Jack's picture
Submitted by Jack on
Living in North Dakota this case has not being reported on often. I have been following it online as much as I can. I see by the two comments below that he should be given jail time. A disorderly conduct very seldom receives jail time. And this case will be no different as Judge Starwn as proclaimed. I also commend Judge Starwn for this. I've read testimony in this case, the children testified under oath there was no racial slurs as one chaperone claimed. Before this man was charged, there were people who weren't present at the hockey game who made allegations they had heard this man make racial slurs. Other witnesses also testified they did not hear racial slurs. The very children were allegedly perpetrated on all testified, no racial slurs. This leads me to believe there was lots of misinformation regarding this case. Was did this done on purpose or not? only those who made these allegations know. But as a matter of court record, this was not the case. Nobody can deny that beer was poured on the children, whether by accident or done purposely only these three men in the sports box know. If this was done purposely, they have to look at themselves daily and live with this shameful act they committed. Other who made claims that were proven to be untrue also need to reexamine the roles they played. Did making up false allegations help or hurt these children more? As a person from the outside looking in, the adults in this case handle themselves like children and the children handled themselves like adults. The only positive to come of this? The children had a chance to witness that we adults can be petty, vindictive and cruel. But by them being brave and honest, they gave all of us a chance to see just what a great bunch of kids they are.