Students from American Horse School at Allen on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
RAPID CITY – Several American Indians stood outside the Pennington County Court house on Thursday afternoon where a hearing took place inside relating to the charge against Trace O’Connell, 41, from Philip, South Dakota, who is accused of spraying beer on American Indian students at a hockey game in January.
O’Connell faces one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct even though witnesses saw him spray beer on a group of 57 students from the American Horse School in Allen, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Several American Indians feel O’Connell should have faced more charges, including a hate crime charge.
He allegedly told the students to “go back to the reservation” during a Rapid City Rush hockey game back on January 24, 2015.
The students were there to celebrate academic achievements.
O’Connell was in corporate suite owned by Eagle Sales of the Black Hills, which is the Anheuser Busch distributor for the region.
Supporters of the Lakota 57 students, as they are now referred to, want O’Connell to face the maximum penalty when he is convicted.
“We just wanted to make sure that what happened is not forgotten and it’s not allowed to be swept under the rug. We feel that with the smallest of the charges of disorderly conduct, we feel that the children of American Horse School are not actually receiving the full justice that they deserve and so we just want to keep the pressure on Rapid City,” said Karin Eagle (Lakota) to a local Rapid City television station.
O’Connell was not in court today due to his attorney’s request for a continuance motion due to the death of O’Connell’s attorney, Patrick Duffy, who passed away earlier this month. O’Connell is now represented by Attorney Mike Butler.
Another hearing was set for July 6, 2015 with a trial scheduled to begin on July 22, 2015.
The judge said the trial will be held at old Dakota Middle School Theater due to the large number families of the 57 children who will attend the trial.
Updated: An earlier version of this story stated O’Connell’s trial would have a jury. It was later discovered the judge ruled there will not be a jury.