Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

March 6, 2015

KELO TV: Oglala Lakota Ban Lawyer for Man Charged in Hockey Game Incident

Tribe Bans Lawyer Representing Man Charged In Hockey Game Incident

March 5, 2015, 12:58 PM by Kevin Woster 
Tribe Bans Lawyer Representing Man Charged In Hockey Game Incident
By Keloland TV
A South Dakota tribe has barred a Rapid City-based defense lawyer from entering their land.
Oglala Lakota Tribe officials passed a resolution banning Rapid City lawyer Patrick Duffy from the Pine Ridge Reservation, after Duffy hired on to defend a Philip man charged with disorderly conduct for behavior toward Native Americans at a hockey game.
Tribal public information officer Kevin Yellow Bird Steele confirmed Thursday that the tribal council approved the resolution submitted by the Pass Creek District representatives on Feb. 24. He referred further inquiries to representatives from the district, who couldn't be reached for comment.

Students and chaperones from American Horse School in Allen, which is within the Pass Creek District in the southeastern part of the reservation, were allegedly subjected to spilled beer and racially charged language during a Jan. 24 Rapid City Rush hockey game at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
Trace O'Connell, 41, of Philip has been charged with disorderly conduct in connection with the incident. He faces up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine if convicted. Duffy has argued that the incident is being exaggerated and that his client did not throw beer on Native American children or make racist comments as alleged.
He repeated that assertion when reached by telephone on Thursday.
"He didn't throw beer on anybody and he didn't make any racists comments, period," Duffy said.
Duffy, who was in federal court recently defending a Lakota defendant and is noted for legal work in defense of Native American voting rights, said he was disappointed to hear about the ban but would honor it.
"They certainly have the sovereign authority to do this," he said. "And I will respect the ban, just as I respect the Oglala Lakota Nation."
Still, he said, the ban doesn't serve the process of determining the truth of what happened at the hockey game, rather than the versions played out on social media. Duffy said he had hoped to travel to the reservation with his client to discuss "what really happened that night," rather than what has been alleged and assumed and exaggerated on social media.
"This is unbelievable evidence of the power of social media to prevent the truth from being heard," Duffy said. "Nations which attack trial lawyers are in trouble.  If you can't hear the sound of the voice of a trial lawyer, you can't hear much free speech at all."
Duffy also has said his client has been targeted by personal threats since the incident. And in one instance, O'Connell and his family left their home for a night for personal safety concerns, Duffy said.
"I think the death threats have finally calmed down," he said.
American Horse School parents and other Native Americans have been angered by the disorderly conduct charge, arguing for more serious charges. Elevated anger by others on some social media sites has occasionally escalated into threats, Duffy said.
City and county officials have said the charge fits the evidence collected during a three-week investigation that interviewed 170 people. But officials ended a meeting announcing the charge to parents and staff at the American Horse School when emotions flared.
Some Native American demonstrators have called for a federal investigation into the incident, fearing justice won't be served at the local level.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.

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