March 29, 2011 in City

Brothers sentenced to probation, community service for racial harassment

By The Spokesman-Review

Two Coeur d’Alene brothers convicted of racially harassing a Puerto Rican man in August 2009 were sentenced Monday to two years supervised probation – including 300 hours of community service each, to be completed within a year – concluding a case that has undergone two jury trials and one mistrial.

If they violate the terms of their probation, William and Frank Tankovich will serve five years in prison, according to Kootenai County 1st District Judge John Luster. William Tankovich would be eligible for parole after two years; Frank Tankovich after four years.

“They got off,” said Kenneth Requena, the man William and Frank Tankovich were convicted of harassing. “It’s a nice sentence. They pretty much got a smack on the hand.”

William Tankovich, 50, saw it differently. Walking away from the courthouse with his wife, he said, “Judge Luster saw through all the bull crap that went on.”

The sentencing was marked with drama as Frank Tankovich repeatedly interrupted Deputy Prosecutor Art Verharen and accused him of lying during pre-sentencing remarks. Luster finally warned him that one more outburst would result in a contempt of court charge.

Frank Tankovich delivered a rambling diatribe in which he repeatedly pointed his finger at Requena, sitting behind him in the courtroom, and accused him of being a former New York City gangster in the witness protection program. He also accused Verharen of having shot someone while turkey hunting.

Frank Tankovich, 47, said he and his family stopped at Requena’s house to ask him a question and instantly had a gun pulled on them. He asked why Requena, a felon, was not charged with being a felon in possession of a handgun.

Frank Tankovich called himself a “loser in life,” a former heroin addict who moved to Idaho to be near family and get out of trouble. He asked that any time his brother William was sentenced to be given to him instead.

A jury convicted the two brothers in October of malicious harassment and conspiracy to commit malicious harassment. An earlier jury, in April, ended up hung on those charges but convicted their brother Ira Tankovich, 49, of a lesser charge of conspiracy to commit disturbing the peace.

Ira Tankovich also pleaded guilty to possessing a gun as a felon and was sentenced to nine years in prison with a chance of parole after three years. A first trial ended in mistrial.

The incident occurred Aug. 16, 2009, when the Tankoviches were driving by Requena’s Coeur d’Alene home and saw him sitting in his garage with his wife, who is white. They stopped their truck and backed up. The stories differ from there. Requena said all three of the brothers charged at him and he felt so threatened he asked his wife to get his gun and call 911. The Tankoviches say only William got out and that Requena instantly pulled a gun on them so they left, vowing to return and call the police.

The Tankoviches did return shortly after, with William and Frank walking from one direction with a pit bull. Ira returned from a different direction with a handgun. Requena, 45, again called police, who took Ira into custody after he threw his gun into a neighboring yard. Police detained, but did not arrest, William and Frank Tankovich, who repeatedly referred to Requena using a racial slur, demanding he be arrested for pulling the gun.

Luster said this case is one of the most difficult he’s handled in 25 years as a judge. The community has struggled for years with its reputation for racism due to the former presence of the Aryan Nations and racial prejudice “simply will not be tolerated.”

Despite that, Luster said he’s always had reservations about this case because it would be just as easy to believe the Tankoviches were angry because Requena pulled a gun on them and not because they were acting out of racial hatred.

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