COEUR d’ALENE — A Hayden man accused of yelling racial slurs at members of a Spokane youth group last week in Coeur d’Alene is now charged with misdemeanor battery and felony malicious harassment. Richard Sovenski, 52, was arrested Tuesday and charged Wednesday in Coeur d’Alene’s First District Magistrate Court.
Malicious harassment is Idaho’s hate crime statute that outlaws intimidation or harassment of an individual because of that person’s race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin.
The charges against Sovenski stem from a July 12 incident at the McDonald’s on Hanley Avenue and U.S. 95 in Coeur d’Alene.
Police responded to a call that there was a large fight at the fast food restaurant. When officers arrived at the scene, there was no fight, but there was an adult victim who had about a dozen teens from a church group with him.
The victim, whose name was not released by police, told the officers he had gotten into an argument with Sovenski inside the restaurant. He said they went outside and Sovenski pushed him to the ground and punched him. Sovenski was no longer at the scene when police arrived.
Chris Morse, of Coeur d’Alene, was one of several people who witnessed the incident. He was in his vehicle, he said, preparing to go through the drive-through lane, when he saw a man push someone outside.
“He was yelling profanities. It really, to me, was disgusting to hear what he was saying. It made me feel bad for the kids,” Morse said. “They were just high schoolers, young kids.”
Morse said you could see teens were with a vehicle from Washington and that they were part of a youth group. He said the man called one of them “a faggot” and called them “half-breeds” and “nigger.”
“He said ‘Get out of Idaho,’” Morse said. “The words I heard come out of his mouth were complete ignorance.”
A woman who was reportedly with Sovenski in the McDonald’s told police the youngsters with the victim were being rude, dancing and causing a disturbance at the restaurant. According to the police report, the woman acknowledged there was an argument between Sovenski and the victim, but said it was only verbal.
The police report states an officer spoke to several witnesses who confirmed the victim’s statements.
Officers attempted to contact Sovenski that night, but reported that he would not return their calls.
Coeur d’Alene Police Capt. Dave Hagar said the arrest was made after detectives completed their investigation.
Sovenski is scheduled to appear in court again in early September for the battery charge. Preliminary hearings have been scheduled for July 27 and July 31 for the malicious harassment charge.