April 29, 2010 in Idaho

Prosecutor calls for third trial in hate crime case

The Spokesman-Review
 

From left, Ira Tankovich, William Tankovich and Frank Tankovich.
(Full-size photo)

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said today that he will re-try two Coeur d’Alene brothers on malicious harassment charges.

Frank J. Tankovich, 46, and William M. Tankovich, 49, will be tried on charges of conspiracy to commit malicious harassment and malicious harassment related to an incident that occurred last August. The brothers were accused of making racially motivated threats toward Kenneth Requena, who is Puerto Rican.

The brothers were tried earlier this month in Coeur d’Alene, along with a third brother, Ira G. Tankovich, 48, in the first hate-crime case to go to trial in North Idaho in recent years. A Coeur d’Alene jury deadlocked on the counts of malicious harassment and conspiracy to commit malicious harassment against Frank and William Tankovich, while convicting Ira Tankovich of the lesser charge of conspiracy to disturb the peace.

The new trial has been set for June 21 before 1st District Judge John Luster.

“I’ll probably be more involved this time,” McHugh said, declining to comment further about trial strategy or whether any new evidence had surfaced.

A first trial ended in mistrial in March after the first witness called referred to the incident n a 911 tape as a “racist thing,” offering an opinion for which the judge said the prosecution had not laid proper foundation.

To prove malicious harassment, the prosecution must show that a threat of physical injury was made based on race, color or national origin. A conspiracy conviction requires agreement among more than two people to make that threat.

On Aug. 16, 2009, prosecutors said in the second trial, the three Tankoviches drove past Requena’s Coeur d’Alene home, stopped and backed up. Prosecutors said two of the three Tankovich brothers are tattooed with racist symbols and their truck had “Born to Kill” and a swastika drawn in dirt on it.

They got out and started walking toward the home, and Kenneth Requena said he felt so threatened that he asked his wife to get his gun and call 911. When the Tankoviches saw the gun, they left, but they returned on foot 20 minutes later. Police arrived simultaneously and took Ira Tankovich, a convicted felon, into custody after seeing him throw a handgun into a neighboring driveway. The other two brothers were not arrested but repeatedly referred to Requena using racial slurs and made statements about taking care of matters themselves, according to court testimony.

Defense attorneys, however, said the Tankoviches were driving by, saw Requena’s electrical contracting van and stopped to buy some phone cable, and then were surprised when he pulled a gun. They returned, their attorneys said, to report the incident to police. Evidence included a 911 call made from the scene by William Tankovich.

In the earlier trial, which concluded April 19, the jury was divided 11-1 in favor of finding William and Frank Tankovich not guilty on malicious harassment and 8-4 in favor of not guilty on the conspiracy charge. However, their decision had to be unanimous.

“The struggle was the race issue,” jury foreman Sam Neal said at the conclusion of the trial. “The sticking point was tying race to the threats.”

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