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Inlander: Youth Group Leader Speaks Out After Jury Declines to Convict Idaho Man of Hate Crime


On Dec. 20, a Hayden man charged with misdemeanor battery and felony malicious harassment after punching a youth group leader and shouting racial slurs at children was convicted by a Kootenai County jury of battery—but not of malicious harassment, which is the Idaho equivalent of a hate crime.

Now, the youth group pastor is speaking out about what he calls a miscarriage of justice.

"Justice was not at all obtained," the group leader, Jose Cisneros, told the Inlander. "There's video tape of him doing it and they let him go."

On July 12, 2018, Cisneros had taken his Spokane, Washington-based youth group to Coeur d'Alene to hear a local preacher speak, and afterward, took them for ice cream at McDonald's. That's where Richard Sovenski punched Cisneros and began shouting racial slurs at the children, calling them "half breeds." Video of the incident, which captures the events following Sovenski punching Cisneros, went viral.

Cisneros told the Inlander that he had considered filing civil charges against the city of Coeur d'Alene for what he believed was its mishandling of the case, but said after the jury declined to convict Sovenski on the charge of malicious harassment that he doesn't believe justice would be served.

"Seeing how this turned out, I doubt I'd be able to have it [go] in my favor," he said.