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Connie Uhre absent from court appearance, lawyer appears in her stead

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Grand Gateway Hotel owner Connie Uhre, 75, did not appear in court personally on Wednesday morning for her initial appearance on three simple assault charges. Instead, her lawyer appeared on her behalf. 

After her May 27 arrest for spraying three demonstrators with Pledge cleaning spray, Uhre was set to appear in court on June 9. She requested the date be moved and the court rescheduled her initial appearance for Wednesday morning. 

While the courtroom was busy with people appearing before Magistrate Judge Scott Bogue on charges ranging from reckless driving to possession of controlled substances, Uhre was nowhere to be seen.

About three dozen people were on Bogue's 8:15 a.m. docket for status hearings and initial appearances. Uhre and four other defendants had representation attend for them. 

During an initial appearance, the judge informs defendants of the state's allegations and their personal rights, defendants enter their pleas, and the court sets dates for follow-up hearings. 

Matthew Lucklum, Uhre's retained attorney, informed the court Uhre knowingly waived her right to appear. He also entered a not guilty plea on her behalf and requested a dispositional conference be set for 60 days after the initial appearance. During a dispositional conference, the defense meets with a state's attorney to discuss the possibility of a plea deal. 

Of the 15 dispositional conferences scheduled for defendants who appeared before Bogue on Wednesday, Uhre's was the only one not scheduled on July 13 or July 15. The court granted her lawyer's request and set Uhre's conference for Aug. 15 without dispute from the prosecution or the judge. 

Uhre entered the public eye when she made racist social media comments following a March 19 shooting at the Grand Gateway Hotel. She stated she would no longer allow Native Americans on the premises of the hotel or the adjoining Cheers Lounge because she could not tell between “a bad native or a Good native.”

Members of NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led activist organization, attempted to book rooms after Connie's statements and said they were turned away. 

Amid protests and national media coverage, the hotel shut down for approximately a month. After reopening, Connie found herself in the custody of the Rapid City Police Department after she sprayed a cleaning product at NDN Collective demonstrators outside the hotel. She was released from jail the same day using a program funded by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, which she has publicly criticized. 

Several NDN Collective members attended Uhre's initial appearance Wednesday. They declined to comment directly following the hearing. Lucklum declined to comment on the case as well. 

The state's charges against Uhre are class 1 misdemeanors. The maximum sentence for each charge is one year in jail, a $2,000 fine, or both. 

— Contact Shalom Baer Gee at sgee@rapidcityjournal.com — 

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