James Magaska Swan, founder of the United Urban Warrior Society, led about eight protesters to Philip Tuesday to demand apologies from the men accused of throwing beer and racial insults at American Indian kids at a hockey game in Rapid City. Swan’s group went to Philip because that’s the hometown of Trace O’Connell, the only person officially charged with any crime over the January 24 incident.
Now if Indians are mad and Philippians are racists, this rally could have been ugly. But press accounts indicate there were no fisticuffs, just stern talk, cookies, and a lot of cops. Swan said his people came to “count coup,” a reference to the traditional warrior practice of striking but not killing an enemy to demonstrate courage and gain prestige, but emphasized that they were coming “in a good way! Seeking only justice!” Mayor Mike Vetter spoke, saying O’Connell isn’t “indicative of the mindset” (Ann-erika White Bird’s words) of the whole town but declining to offer any apology for actions not yet adjudicated.
That adjudication will be complicated. O’Connell pled not guilty to his one disorderly conduct charge yesterday. His attorney Patrick Duffy, who has done valuable legal work for South Dakota’s Native people but now is banned by tribal order from the Pine Ridge Reservation, said after the hearing, “This is actually one hell of a story; it just didn’t happen.” Without Rapid City Attorney Joel Landeen’s agreement not to seek jail time for O’Connell, Duffy says he’ll demand a jury trial, and seating a jury won’t be easy:
[Fourth Circuit Magistrate Judge Eric] Strawn advised Duffy and Rapid City Attorney Joel Landeen that he has refrained from reading or watching any media coverage of the incident since the case was assigned to him.
Given the notoriety of the case, Strawn offered to preside at a court trial, if the attorneys are willing to waive a jury trial.
“We would probably have to empanel all of Rapid City to find someone who hasn’t heard about the case,” Strawn said.
Landeen, however, said the judge would have to empanel jurors. Turning to Duffy, Landeen said he is not taking the possibility of jail time “off the table.”
Speaking after court, Duffy said he would settle for a court trial if Landeen were not intent on demanding jail time.
Duffy said the result would be “the longest violation-of-a-city-ordinance trial in American history, if we have to empanel a jury” [Andrea Cook, “Philip Man Pleads Not Guilty to Disorderly Conduct in January Hockey Game Incident,” Rapid City Journal, 2015.03.19].
Andrea Cook reports 30 protesters rallied outside the courthouse during O’Connell’s hearing yesterday. Expect more such demonstrations in Rapid City, Philip, and elsewhere in the run up to O’Connell’s June trial.