MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) _ A judge could go to prison if convicted on a federal civil rights charge for biting the nose of a defendant who cursed him.

Judge Joseph Troisi, 47, said he did not intend to bite 29-year-old Bill Witten, 29. If convicted on the single count of violating Witten's civil rights, Troisi would face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

``The bottom line is he made a mistake. If he could turn back the hands of time, it wouldn't have happened,'' said the judge's lawyer, Harry Deitzler. ``I hope that this doesn't ruin his career.''

Witten swore at Troisi as he was being led from the courtroom June 26 after losing a request to have his $40,000 bond reduced while he appealed his sentence for grand larceny and illegal entry.

Troisi stepped down from the bench, removed his robe and confronted Witten as a half-dozen witnesses looked on in the courtroom 90 miles southwest of Morgantown in Pleasants County.

The bite took a chunk off the end of Witten's nose and he still bears a mark there, said his parents, Jane and Ray Witten.

Troisi was suspended without pay last month.

An investigative report prepared for the Supreme Court said the altercation was an example of Troisi's long-standing inability to control his temper on the bench. The judge has lost his temper at least 19 times in the courtroom in the past two years, the report said.