On Thursday, 4th Circuit Magistrate Judge Eric Strawn ruled that, if convicted, Trace O’Connell will not be subjected to jail time for misdemeanor disorderly conduct. O’Connell, 41, is under legal scrutiny for his alleged involvement in the harassment of Native school children at a Rush Hockey game.
When 57 American Horse School students and staff members attended the Rapid City sporting event in January, their fun was disrupted by a group of fans, including O’Connell, situated in the box seating above them. From shouting streams of racially charged slurs to intentionally pouring beer on them, the perpetrators were determined to make their prejudice known. Finally, the school group decided to leave the game early in order to avoid further harm.
Mr. O’Connell was the only person charged for involvement in the situation.
Strawn’s decision means that O’Connell, who pleaded “not guilty” in March, will not be tried in front of a jury. At this point, his maximum punishment is a $500 fine. Strawn also set the trial date back from June 28 to July 22, as requested by defense lawyer Michael Butler. Butler is new to the case, having taken over for recently deceased Patrick Duffy in mid-May.
Rapid City Attorney Joel Landeen says he isn’t ready to see the possibility of jail time “taken off the table” after being “prepared to seat a jury and go forward” prior to Thursday’s decision.
This case has garnered much public attention, with protests such as the Stand Strong Against Racism rally persisting since the news first broke. For many, the decision to take jail time off of the table is a huge disappointment. Months of anticipation have resulted in a powerful desire for justice to be served. This kind of racism stands out as disturbingly harmful in the year 2015.
Let us know what your thoughts are on the state of the trial, we will continue to follow this case as it advances.