Kistler orders new judge for ethnic intimidation case

A new district judge will take Allen Sinclair’s place in a contentious case.

In December, Sinclair dismissed ethnic intimidation charges against Nicholas Tavella, 19, of Greensburg. The Penn State student was accused of an assault on a fellow student, after allegedly following the man, threatening him and grabbing him by the neck.

“Where are you from, the Middle East?” Tavella said, according to court documents.

He allegedly told a university police officer that he racially profiled the other student.

Sinclair bound over other charges in the attack, finding reason to proceed on misdemeanor counts of terroristic threats, simple assault, disorderly conduct, stalking and harassment, plus two summary alcohol charges.

Sinclair did bind over charges including terroristic threats, simple assault, disorderly conduct and harassment. Tavella will be in court Thursday for a pre-trial conference on those charges.

But the Philipsburg district judge dismissed the felony ethnic intimidation count, saying the assistant district attorney had not proven her case on that charge.

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller refiled the charges and said that she would ask for a new judge to hear the case at the preliminary level. A district judge presides over cases at the arraignment and preliminary hearing stages before they become the domain of the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.

On Monday, Parks Miller’s office released a statement, saying President Judge Thomas King Kistler had agreed to hand the case to a new district judge.

The court determines that there was an error of law.

President Judge Thomas King Kistler

In an order dated Feb. 5, Kistler granted Parks Miller’s motion “as the court determines that there was an error of law.”

That preliminary hearing will now take place March 23. According to the Centre County Court Administrator’s office, District Judge Steven Lachman will be on the bench that day.

A criminal pretrial conference for the remaining charges is scheduled for Thursday.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce