New judge binds over ethnic intimidation charges on PSU student

A Penn State student will be heading toward trial on a case of ethnic intimidation.

Nicholas Tavella, 19, of Greensburg, was bound over on the charge by District Judge Steven Lachman on Wednesday. It was the second time he faced a preliminary hearing for the same charge in the same incident.

On Dec. 9, District Judge Allen Sinclair bound over additional counts from the on-campus altercation. Tavella was also charged with misdemeanor counts of terroristic threats, simple assault, disorderly conduct, stalking and harassment and summary public drunkenness.

Sinclair did not find evidence to proceed on the felony ethnic intimidation charge.

The charges stem from an incident which Penn State police said Tavella followed another Penn State student, grabbed his neck and asked him if he was “going to rape a girl.”

If you get away, I’ll put a bullet in you.

Court documents quote Nicholas Tavella as telling fellow student

According to court documents, Tavella also allegedly asked the other student, “Where are you from, the Middle East?” and told the man, “If you get away, I’ll put a bullet in you.”

Officer Cole McDaniel, who witnessed part of the altercation, testified Wednesday that Tavella admitted to him that it was because “he appeared to be of Asian or Middle Eastern descent,” that he followed the other student.

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller refiled the charges and petitioned the court to appoint a different district judge to preside over the case at the preliminary hearing.

This is perhaps one of the worst cases of ethnic intimidation that I’ve ever seen.

Centre County DA Stacy Parks Miller

“This is perhaps one of the worst cases of ethnic intimidation that I’ve ever seen,” Parks Miller said.

Jalelah Ahmed: 814-231-4631, @jalelahahmed