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Man found not guilty of committing hate crime

December 21, 2018

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho man charged with a felony hate crime has been acquitted.

A jury on Thursday found Richard Sovenski, 52, of Hayden, not guilty of malicious harassment, but guilty of a misdemeanor charge of battery, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported .

The charges stemmed from an incident last summer in which Sovenski was filmed in a McDonald’s parking lot screaming obscenities and slurs at teenagers in a church youth group.

Sovenski yelled racist and homophobic remarks at the teenagers and their adult supervisors, Deputy Prosecutor Arthur Verharen said.

Because the church youths were made up of African-American and Hispanic teens, Verharen told the jury no other conclusion was possible except to find Sovenski guilty of the hate crime.

“That’s how you know he had specific intent,” Verharen said. “Because what he said, and who he said it to.”

Bu defense attorney Michael Palmer said Sovenski was dealing with family issues including his wife’s health — she had just completed her ninth shoulder surgery — as well as on-the-job stress when he stopped for beers before heading to the McDonald’s.

“What we had here was a guy in a particular moment in time who was on the ragged edge, completely frayed,” Palmer said after the verdict. “He just snapped. What he said was completely inexcusable, but he didn’t get into it because of race.”

District Judge Scott Wayman called for a sentencing hearing within 30 days of Thursday’s verdict.

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Information from: Coeur d’Alene Press, http://www.cdapress.com

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