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Homeless man pleads guilty to attacking IRS employee

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Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, 12:44 p.m.

A homeless veteran pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to assaulting a federal employee while panhandling.

John Clarence Whetsel, 60, admitted that on Feb. 7 he tackled an Internal Revenue Service employee who was taking a smoke break outside the Federal Building, Downtown, after the employee refused to give him money.

In return for his guilty plea, the government has agreed to drop two charges of assaulting the Federal Protective Service officer and an off-duty Pittsburgh police officer who subsequently arrested Whetsel, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Shardul Desai.

U.S. District Judge David Cercone scheduled Whetsel's sentencing for April 22. He remains in custody because he disappeared from a veteran's treatment program while on bail and was a fugitive for two weeks.

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