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New Preliminary Hearing Set in Ethnic Intimidation Case

by on March 14, 2016 3:03 PM
Bellefonte, PA

A Centre County judge has ordered a new preliminary hearing in the case of a Penn State student charged with felony ethnic intimidation, District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said Monday.

Nicholas Tavella of Greensburg was initially charged in December with ethnic intimidation, along with misdemeanor counts including making terroristic threats, simple assault, disorderly conduct, stalking and harassment. At a Dec. 9 hearing Magisterial District Judge Allen Sinclair bound over the misdemeanor charges but dismissed the felony charges saying the prosecution did not establish that ethnic intimidation had been committed. 

Charges were refiled by Penn State Police on Dec. 14 and on Monday President Judge Thomas Kistler agreed with the D.A.'s office that Sinclair had committed "an error of law," as the alleged attack seemed to be motivated by the victim's ethnicity.

The new preliminary hearing has been set for March 23.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Tavella followed another student home “because of his skin color” and eventually grabbed him by the throat and said “don’t make me put a bullet in your chest." Police said the student was walking from Park Hill Apartments towards Nittany Apartments. The two met in the street and Tavella asked if the student was “going to rape a girl.” 

He appeared intoxicated when police arrived at the scene at the intersection of Bigler and Hastings Road. According to the police report, Tavella admitted to racially profiling the student, who is of Indian decent. Police said he admitted that he followed the student because he appeared to be of Middle Eastern or Asian descent and he “had been acting suspicious.”

Penn State Police said Tavella admitted to officers that he “probably grabbed him” and “probably said something racist” but he didn’t remember everything because he was drinking before the incident. Tavella's defense said the incident was "drunken stupidity" and not motivated by hate.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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