April 15, 2010 in City

Jury won’t hear of gun felonies

Defense in hate trial tried to discredit alleged victim
By The Spokesman-Review
 

On the Web: Find previous coverage at spokesman.com/tags/tankovich-trial.

Defense attorneys in the Coeur d’Alene hate crime trial of three brothers lost an attempt Wednesday to challenge the alleged victim’s credibility by introducing his criminal record, which includes felony convictions for illegally transporting guns.

At one point, defense attorney Brad Chapman asked the alleged victim, Kenneth Requena, if he was in the federal witness protection program, but the prosecution quickly objected and 1st District Judge John Luster threw the question out.

Testimony outside the jury’s presence revealed that Requena has felony convictions for transporting guns across state lines and for possession of cocaine and marijuana. Requena testified that he was arrested at an airport for transporting two 9 mm handguns from Virginia to New York City. However, he said he completed 12 years of probation in 2002 – but served no jail time – and said some of his criminal records were in the World Trade Center when it was destroyed.

Under questioning by Judge Luster, Requena also said he didn’t know if he could legally answer questions about the matter due to the plea agreement that led to the convictions.

“The question becomes, does the (criminal) history contribute to a propensity to keep a loaded firearm on the kitchen counter and to immediately go for that firearm on any indication of a perceived threat?” Chapman asked.

Luster ruled that the convictions would not impact Requena’s ability to tell the truth in court, and Requena will not testify before the jury as to his criminal history.

Also at issue was Requena’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because felons are prohibited from owning guns. Requena said his wife, Kimberly, owns the handgun he displayed Aug. 16, 2009, to protect his family against a perceived threat by Ira G. Tankovich, 48, William M. Tankovich, 49, and Frank J. Tankovich, 46. Requena said he understood he might be incriminating himself by testifying about using the handgun.

After the jury came in, Requena testified that he was in his garage with his wife and 20-year-old son when the Tankoviches drove by in a pickup with two other people. Requena, who is Puerto Rican, said everyone in the pickup was looking at him with “disgust.” The pickup stopped, backed up and came to a stop in the middle of the street in front of his home north of downtown Coeur d’Alene. He said a swastika was drawn in the dirt on the truck’s back left side.

Requena said the three brothers got out of the pickup and were “charging” toward him. He said a man later identified as Frank Tankovich yelled, “Hey, come over here.” Requena told his wife to call 911 and get his gun. “The way they were coming toward me, I felt threatened and I felt afraid and there were three of them,” Requena said.

The Tankoviches left when they saw the handgun but came back 20 minutes later. Frank and William walked toward the house on Pennsylvania Avenue with a pit bull, Requena said. Ira approached from 20th Street and immediately threw a gun he was carrying into the bushes when he saw the police had arrived, Requena said. Frank and William talked at the same time, repeatedly calling him a racial slur and using vulgarities to threaten him, Requena said.

Defense attorneys, however, said the Tankoviches never set foot on Requena’s property and never made any reference to his ethnicity until police arrived, at which point they were angry that police were not going to arrest Requena for pulling a gun on them. Attorney Dan Cooper pointed out that Requena’s electrical contracting vans were parked in the street to support the defense’s contention that the Tankoviches stopped to ask if they could buy some electrical cable. The jury also inspected the Glock .45 caliber handgun Requena used to protect himself.

Chapman attempted to get Requena to agree that he “meant business” when he displayed and cocked the gun.

Requena disagreed, saying his intent was only “to protect myself.

“It was my intent to get them to leave,” he said.


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