BOISE – A unanimous Idaho Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of Frank Tankovich for malicious harassment and conspiracy after a 2009 incident in which he and his two brothers, in a truck festooned with a swastika, harassed a man of Puerto Rican descent outside his Coeur d’Alene home.
“We find ample evidence to support the jury’s finding that Tankovich was motivated by racial animus,” Appeals Court Judge Karen Lansing wrote in the decision, issued today.
Frank Tankovich and his brother William were sentenced to probation and community service for the incident, while his brother Ira was convicted of conspiracy to disturb the peace and possession of a gun by a felon, and was sentenced to up to nine years in prison.
On the afternoon of Aug. 16, 2009, the three brothers drove past the home of Kenneth Requena, who was standing in his garage with his wife, Kimberly. The brothers, whose truck had a swastika drawn in dirt on one side and “Born 2 Kill” on the other, squealed to a stop and backed up to park in front of the Requenas’ driveway, where Frank Tankovich, the driver, began yelling at Requena and all three brothers got out of the truck and approached him.
Requena asked his wife to get his gun and call 911, which she did; he cocked the gun and stood in the garage, while the brothers yelled threats, then got back in their pickup and drove away. Thirty minutes later, they returned on foot with a gun, a knife and a pit bull, again yelling threats. Requena again asked his wife to retrieve his gun and call 911. When police responded, the brothers loudly and repeatedly yelled profanity, racial slurs and threats against Requena, calling him a “beaner” and a “terrorist,” and demanding that he be arrested for displaying a firearm.
Frank Tankovich appealed his conviction on several grounds, contending that evidence presented about his two brothers’ white-supremacist tattoos was irrelevant because he didn’t have any himself; that expert testimony explaining the significance of Nazi symbols in the tattoos shouldn’t have been presented to the jury; and that the evidence wasn’t sufficient to show malicious harassment, because it was “equally consistent” with the brothers returning to Requena’s house in response to his earlier display of a gun.
The court disagreed on all counts. “The evidence shows that Tankovich’s hostility toward Kenneth and his intimidating actions began before Kenneth displayed a firearm, and therefore could not have been in response to or motivated by Kenneth’s act of arming himself,” Lansing wrote.
Because both Frank Tankovich and his brother William were convicted of conspiracy to commit malicious harassment as well as the harassment crime itself, the brothers’ Nazi tattoos were relevant to his conspiracy charge, the court found. It cited cases from five states noting that “tattoos may be used to demonstrate motive or intent.”