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Jury agrees on single misdemeanor

by David Cole
| April 20, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - The jury on Monday for three Coeur d'Alene brothers involved in a hate crime trial here returned a guilty verdict against one of the men on only a single misdemeanor count.

Ira G. Tankovich, 48, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit disturbing the peace. That has a maximum sentence of six months in jail. Ira has been jailed since November, so he has already served all or most of that, though the court could decide he needs to serve more time.

Ira had been charged with a felony, a charge of conspiracy to commit malicious harassment.

The jury told the court it was unable to reach a verdict on anything else. Therefore the jury didn't find brothers William M. Tankovich, 49, and Frank J. Tankovich, 46, guilty of the charges they had faced.

William and Frank had been charged with both conspiracy to commit malicious harassment and malicious harassment. William declined comment outside the courthouse after the verdict.

It was the second trial of the three men, after a mistrial was declared last month.

Immediately following the hearing to reveal the verdict, Ira turned to his family directly behind the defense table and said, "We won."

Ira's defense attorney, Brad Chapman, said, "My client is somewhat relieved. This (case) was never about race."

Prosecutors had alleged that the brothers threatened a Hispanic man at his home near 20th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in August, and repeatedly called the man a "beaner." Defense attorneys for the three men claimed it was a neighborhood incident that started from a misunderstanding.

The jury deliberated part of Friday, and through most of the day Monday.

At 3 p.m. Monday, the court brought the jury, prosecutors, the Tankoviches and their lawyers into the court, and a verdict in the case seemed to be at hand.

But the eight woman and four man jury said it only had reached a verdict on the single count against Ira. It hadn't fully made up its mind on the charges against William and Frank.

Kootenai County 1st District Judge John Luster sent them back into deliberations, leaving Ira and Chapman to wait longer for the decision that had been made on the charge against Ira.

"I had to go and get a new bottle of Tums," Chapman said.

They didn't wait long, as the jury reached its overall decision about an hour later.

Ira is still being held in Kootenai County jail on a charge of felon in possession of a handgun, said Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh. Prosecutors said Ira had approached the Hispanic man's home with a gun during the neighborhood incident.

Ira was convicted in 1990 of voluntary manslaughter in California.

McHugh said he hadn't decided whether to seek a third trial, or how his office would go about one if it did.

"We look at how the evidence came in during the course of the trial, what happened during the trial, both inside and outside the courtroom," McHugh said. "We look at the jury split."

McHugh said he hadn't decided what sentence to recommend to the court for Ira.

"The circumstances which we believe to be aggravated will probably affect our sentencing recommendation," McHugh said.