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PSU student pleads guilty in attack of man

BELLEFONTE – Nicholas Tavella, 20, of Greensburg entered an open guilty plea this week in Centre County for charges stemming from a 2015 incident at Penn State.

Tavella pled guilty to the charges of ethnic intimidation, terroristic threats, harassment, public drunkenness and purchase, consumption, possession, or transportation of liquor. The Honorable Pamela A. Ruest presided over his plea.

Accorrding to court documents:

In December of 2015, Tavella followed the victim, a complete stranger, through Penn State University property yelling obscenities and asking the victim if he was going to rape a girl. Tavella continued to taunt and follow the victim and asked why he was trying to get away. The victim and Tavella came to an intersection where the victim claimed Tavella grabbed him by the throat and said “don’t make me put a bullet in your chest.” Tavella admitted afterwards that he had racially profiled the victim because of his skin color, which he “thought” appeared to be Middle-Eastern or Asian descent.

Officer McDanel of the Pennsylvania State University Police Department responded to the incident and filed multiple charges against Tavella. At the preliminary hearing on Dec. 9, 2015, all charges were held to court except for the charge of Ethnic Intimidation. His lawyer argued Tavella’s actions were motivated by his “love of country” and mentioned recent Trump rhetoric.

The district attorney decided to seek a refiling of the Ethnic Intimidation charge, believing the dismissal was in error. The charge was re-filed by Officer McDanel on Dec. 14, 2015, at Magisterial District Judge Alan Sinclair’s office.

Following the re-filing of the charge, the district attorney’s office filed a motion that sought a new district judge to preside over the next preliminary hearing averring the dismissal of the charge was an error. At a second preliminary hearing, the charge was held to court for trial. Tavella declined to pick a jury on Monday and pled guilty instead. Tavella is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 18.