Trace O’Connell, the Philip man fighting one charge of disorderly conduct for his allegedly racist behavior against American Horse School students at a Rapid City Rush hockey game last January, has a new lawyer. Mike Butler of Sioux Falls has taken the case. O’Connell’s previous attorney, legal warhorse Patrick Duffy, died unexpectedly on May 8. Butler plans to attend O’Connell’s status hearing this week Thursday, when it seems likely Butler will ask for a delay in O’Connell’s trial, which was supposed to begin in June.
Duffy played a key role in calling out Mike Rounds, Joop Bollen, and other players in the EB-5 scandal in 2014. O’Connell has now hired another lawyer who went on the record to challenge the state’s “blame the dead guy” narrative. In November 2013, Butler issued this bombshell statement on behalf of his deceased client and EB-5 scapegoat Richard Benda:
“Richard consulted with me after he became aware that he was being investigated for alleged wrong-doing in connection with (Northern Beef),” said Mike Butler of Sioux Falls.
“I had discussions with law enforcement authorities and was more than confident that the allegations were political, not criminal.
“Richard was a private man. He was angry and upset. He dreaded the publicity of being accused and the consequences of it.
“I did not imagine he would take his life. He spoke of the love of his daughter and how this would impact her.
“Richard was a great public servant and father and friend to many” [Bob Mercer, “Benda Attorney: Allegations Were Political,” Aberdeen American News, 2013.11.23].
Butler waited until a month after Richard Benda died to issue that statement to the press. Duffy was not afraid to argue his client’s case in the media, but Butler so far has not lobbed any public verbal grenades on O’Connell’s behalf.
The Oglala Lakota tribe had banned Duffy from the Pine Ridge Reservation for daring to defend O’Connell. No word yet on whether the tribe will close its borders to O’Connell’s new lawyer as well.