HOLLIDAYSBURG - A firearms expert who works for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Altoona denied Monday in testimony before a Blair County judge that he ever told two other employees there that he was going to kill a co-worker.
Stephen Nastoff, 56, of Duncansville is facing one count of terroristic threats for comments he allegedly made in early 2007 in which he stated of his co-worker, "If he so much as looks at me wrong, I'm going to put one in him."
He never directly approached the supposed victim with the threat, but it was relayed to the co-worker by two other men who worked at the facility, Jeff Campbell and Stephen Salla, who also testified before Judge Daniel J. Milliron during the non-jury trial.
The alleged subject of the conversation was John Bradford Mena, who indicated to the judge he was frightened by the threat when he heard it.
Nastoff was asked by his attorney James R. Huff II if he ever made the threat.
"Never," Nastoff said.
The charges state that the threat was made in either January or February 2007 but never came to light until April 23, 2007, three days after Nastoff was named supervisor of the facility's ballistics laboratory, part of ICE's National Firearms and Tactical Training Unit.
Nastoff inferred that the motive for the false report was his promotion to a job others wanted.
Huff argued that the charge of uttering a terroristic threat should be dismissed because there was no evidence that Nastoff actually had the intent to kill anyone - even if he had issued the threat.
He pointed out that Nastoff had plenty of access to weapons at the ICE facility and could have easily carried out the threat if he meant it.
"He has said it never happened. ... Even if he did say it, it doesn't rise to the level of a criminal offense," Huff said.
Nastoff, Huff said, has a clean record, having worked as a sheriff's deputy in Ohio and as a firearms adviser and trainer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration prior to becoming a federal employee.
He has worked in Altoona for 10 years.
Deputy District Attorney Wade Kagarise said the case involves a legal issue as to what constitutes a terroristic threat. He said the prosecution does not have to prove that Nastoff intended to kill his co-worker but whether he intended to terrorize him.
Milliron refused to dismiss charges and said that under the law, he has seven days to return a verdict.