Idaho


Hate crime trial ends with one misdemeanor conviction

MONDAY, APRIL 19, 2010, 4:45 P.M.

From left, brothers William Tankovich, Ira Tankovich and Frank Tankovich await their verdicts in a Kootenai County courtroom Monday, April 19, 2010. The jury hung on all counts except for one misdemeanor count against Ira Tankovich. At far right is defense attorney Dan Cooper. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
From left, brothers William Tankovich, Ira Tankovich and Frank Tankovich await their verdicts in a Kootenai County courtroom Monday, April 19, 2010. The jury hung on all counts except for one misdemeanor count against Ira Tankovich. At far right is defense attorney Dan Cooper. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Jurors convicted a North Idaho man of conspiracy to commit disturbing the peace, a misdemeanor, in the first hate crime case to go to trial in Coeur d’Alene in recent years. The jury hung on two counts against the man’s brothers.

The three brothers were charged with harassing a Coeur d’Alene man, Kenneth Requena, last August. Ira G. Tankovich, 48, was charged with conspiracy to commit malicious harassement, while his brothers, William M. Tankovich, 49, and Frank J. Tankovich, 46, faced that charge as well as the charge of malicious harassment.

Ira Tankovich will be released on his own recognizance, having already served six months in jail — the equivalent to the maximum penalty on the misdemeanor conviction.

Court officers said the jury was 11-to-1 in favor of finding William and Frank Tankovich not guilty, but the inability to reach a unanimous decision resulted in the hung verdict.

In closing arguments last week, Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor Art Verharen said Requena is a dark-skinned man who was sitting in his garage Aug. 16 with his white wife when the men drove by in a pickup truck bearing a swastika. They backed up, stopped in the middle of the street, and got out. Verharen said Ira’s tattoos depict stars and the words “Aryan pride,” and William’s, the Nazi “SS” insignia, which defense attorneys contend merely shows lightning bolts.

The men left when Requena displayed a handgun, Verharen said, but returned, from two different directions. Two brothers walked a pit bull and the third approached from a different direction with a loaded gun. Two neighbors watching the scene called 911.

“You can see the different levels of threats that were faced by Kenneth Requena,” Verharen said. “Keep in mind the level of planning they had to do here.”

Verharen said the brothers repeatedly used the word “beaner.”

“They didn’t call Mr. Requena a jerk,” Verharen said. “They chose the one word that was racially insensitive to that person and they said it over and over and over again.”

The three defense attorneys said the case is not about race. It is about three brothers driving by the home and Requena making a provocative gesture toward them, then pulling a gun.

They tried to cast doubt about whether a swastika really was drawn in the dirt on the truck, about whether the Tankoviches actually made threatening statements or whether they were just angry when they learned Requena wouldn’t be arrested for pulling a gun. They said the Tankoviches used racial slurs, but did not do so in a threatening manner.

“It was to retaliate for Mr. Requena’s unlawful and unwarranted use of a firearm,” said attorney Christopher Schwartz, who represents William Tankovich.

Schwartz pointed to a 911 tape on which his client can be heard calling the police when the brothers returned to the scene. He asked why, if the Tankoviches were committing a crime, they would invite the police.

“If it was a conspiracy, would they have walked there in broad daylight?” asked attorney Dan Cooper, who represents Frank Tankovich. “This was a neighborhood incident based on misperception. It is not based on race.”



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