In the least of her troubles, racist Rapid City motelier Connie Uhre was found guilty Friday of two of three counts of simple assault for spraying protestors outside her Grand Gateway motel with Pledge.
“This case is actually quite simple,” said Deputy Pennington County State’s Attorney Rachel Lindsay during closing arguments Friday afternoon. “She was mad, and she assaulted three people.”
The six-man, six-woman jury partially agreed when they found Uhre assaulted NDN Collective Action Organizer Sunny Red Bear, and the teenage son of another NDN Collective employee. The teen testified he attended the protest to sing, play drums, and support his people.
…The woman who the jury acquitted Uhre of assaulting did not testify at the trial. Witness testimony of exactly what happened to her was spotty, and no witnesses directly pointed her out in a 16-minute live video Red Bear took of the incident [Shalom Baer Gee, “Grand Gateway Owner Found Guilty of Two Counts of Simple Assault, Acquitted of Third,” Rapid City Journal, 2023.10.13].
The best defense that Uhre’s lawyer, Jim Sword, could come up with was that Uhre is old, short, and not scary:
Throughout the trial, Sword emphasized his client’s age and small stature — “all 4 foot 11 inches of her.”
In Sword’s characterization, Uhre was a small, elderly woman who was scared of the more than 20 protestors. In response to them “taunting her” and sticking cameras in her face, she sprayed Pledge at their cameras, but not at their faces.
There are several different definitions of simple assault in South Dakota. Uhre was specifically charged with attempting by physical menace or credible threat to put another in fear of imminent bodily harm, with or without the actual ability to harm another person.
Sword said that no one was afraid of Uhre.
However, Lindsay emphasized a portion of the jury instructions that stated Uhre’s actions did not have to result in actual fear. She simply had to attempt to put someone in fear of imminent bodily harm.
“You don’t spray somebody with a cleaning product to make them feel good,” Lindsay said [Baer Gee, 2023.10.13].
As Connie’s son Nick himself said on Facebook last year, “If someone feels threatened then it’s a threat.” But as SDCL 22-18-1 says, simple assault need not involve fear; it need only involve attempting or “intentionally caus[ing] bodily injury to another which does not result in serious bodily injury.” That intentional though not serious bodily injury is a Class 1 misdemeanor, potentially costing Uhre $2,000 and a year in the Pennington County jail per count. Plus, if she Pledges anyone again, that repeat offense would bump up to a Class 6 felony. Whatever sentence the judge gives her for these squirts, someone had better tell Connie to keep clean… and not keep cleaning Indians.
The state did drop a bond violation charge against Uhre, and her son Judson intends to drop a federal lawsuit against his mom and brothers for poor management of their hospitality company, but the Department of Justice and NDN Collective are still coming after the family business in federal court for civil rights violations. Myron Pourier Sr., the father of the young Indian man whose murder at the Grand Gateway prompted Uhre’s racist online comments and the resulting protests, has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Uhre and the family business.