April 30, 2010 in City

Coeur d’Alene brothers face third hate crime trial

Previous cases ended in mistrial, split jury
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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What’s next

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

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said Thursday that he will re-try two Coeur d’Alene brothers on malicious harassment charges stemming from a racial incident last summer.

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 in 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 could not reach a unanimous verdict on the malicious harassment and conspiracy counts against Frank and William Tankovich, but convicted Ira Tankovich of a 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 elaborate about trial strategy or whether new evidence had surfaced.

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

In the second trial, which concluded April 19, the jury was split 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.

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 that two or more people agree to make that threat.

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

Prosecutors say that on Aug. 16 the Tankoviches drove past Requena’s Coeur d’Alene home, stopped and backed up. They say two of the three Tankovich brothers are tattooed with racist symbols and that 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 the 911 call made from the scene by William Tankovich.


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