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Hate crime verdict expected

by Tom Hasslinger
| April 17, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - A verdict for three brothers standing trail for a hate crime could come Monday.

Ira Gino Tankovich, 48, William Michael Tankovich, 49, and Frank James Tankovich, 46, are all charged with conspiracy to commit malicious harassment. The latter two also face malicious harassment - or hate crime - charges.

Jury members deliberated for around three hours following closing arguments in 1st District Court on Friday, and will reconvene at 8:30 a.m. Monday.

"They chose the one word that was racially offensive to that person," Deputy Prosecutor Art Verharen said of the brothers' yelling slurs at Kenneth Requena after they stopped their truck outside his home. "And they said it over and over and over again."

The brothers are charged with yelling racial slurs and threatening Requena, who is Puerto Rican, at his home around 20th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Coeur d'Alene on Aug. 16.

Witnesses say the Tankoviches drove by the Requena home that afternoon in a pickup - described as decorated with 'born to kill' and a swastika on it - before stopping and getting out of the truck to confront Requena.

That in itself is a threatening action, said Verharen, and justified Requena pulling out his gun when he saw them approach.

"There's no way these three men ended up at Requena's home accidentally," Verharen said. "There's really no doubt all this is racially motivated."

But defense attorneys described a different encounter.

Brad Chapman, who is representing Ira Tankovich, said the brothers had seen Requena's truck that indicated he was an electrician. Chapman said they stopped to ask about buying some electrical cables when Requena began yelling at them.

The confrontation that ensued was in response to the brothers feeling threatened at having a gun drawn on them, defense attorneys said.

"I urge you not to let that sway you," said attorney Christopher Schwartz, who represents William Tankovich, on the racial slurs the brothers used.

Schwartz called the derogatory language "ignorant" and "hateful," but said they were used out of anger toward Requena for pulling the firearm.

"It was retaliation for Mr. Requena's unlawful and unwarranted use of a firearm," he said.

Neighbors called police after spotting the brothers outside Requena's home.

After the initial confrontation, the brothers left, only to return on foot around 30 minutes later, which started a second encounter.

Frank and William Tankovich re-appeared walking a pit bull and the yelling began again. Coeur d'Alene police officers arrived just as Ira Tankovich was approaching the house from a different direction with a gun of his own.

Ira Tankovich, who was convicted in 1990 of voluntary manslaughter in California and has "Aryan" tattooed on his left leg and "pride" tattooed on his right, threw the gun into some bushes and officers immediately arrested him.

Verharen said that was the action of a plotted ambush, but defense attorneys said the brothers were returning to the scene to make sure officers had located Requena.

The Tankoviches had called police to inform them of Requena pulling the gun. They continued yelling slurs at him, even while police were there, out of frustration that Requena wasn't being arrested by officers, the defense teams said.

Ira Tankovich was described as extremely belligerent at the time of the second encounter, according to police reports.

The weeklong trial was the second try for the state.

Judge John Luster declared a mistrial in the first trial on March 30 after Verharen played a recording of a 911 call out of order with proper court proceedings.

Friday, the jury deliberated from 2:15 to 5:30 p.m. after the closing arguments before agreeing to resume the deliberation after the weekend.

While waiting for the jury to enter the courtroom at one point, Ira Tankovich turned to his family sitting behind him.

"How do you feel about everything? Good?" he asked a family member, who nodded approval. "Me too," he said.

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