Nicholas Tavella, 20, of Greensburg, entered an open guilty plea on Monday for charges stemming from a December incident in which he allegedly attacked a student based on his race.
He pleaded guilty to charges of felony ethnic intimidation; misdemeanor terroristic threats; and summary harassment, public drunkenness and purchase, consumption, possession or transportation of liquor, according to a press release from the Centre County District Attorney’s Office.
Judge Pamela Ruest presided over the plea.
Tavella was a Penn State student at the time of the attack, but he is not currently listed in Penn State’s online directory.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Centre Daily Times
On Dec. 5, Tavella followed another student on Penn State’s campus and asked the victim if he was going to rape a girl, according to the release. Tavella taunted the victim and asked him why he was trying to get away.
“What are you, from the Middle East?” Tavella asked the student, according to court documents.
According to the release, the victim said Tavella grabbed him by the throat and said, “Don’t make me put a bullet in your chest.”
Police said in December that Tavella admitted the attack was racially motivated, as previously reported.
At the time of the incident, multiple charges were filed against Tavella. At his preliminary hearing on Dec. 9, all were held to court by District Judge Allen Sinclair except for ethnic intimidation.
Attorney Wayne Bradburn argued in court that Tavella had no malicious intent, as previously reported.
According to the release, the ethnic intimidation charge was refiled on Dec. 14, and the charge was held to court for trial at a second preliminary hearing in March.
“A physical attack motivated by skin color and/or perceived ethnicity is a simple hate crime and this will not be tolerated in our community,” Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said in December.
Tavella is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 18.
Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619; @SarahRafacz