A Police Chief in Pennsylvania has pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation charge after threatening a private citizen who posted negative comments about him and his department with “fake arrest.”
The private citizen, Paul DeLorenzo, posted critical comments on Facebook about the West Hazleton Police Department and its Chief Brian Buglio because of the slow response to make an arrest in a case involving him, according to the Middle District of Pennsylvania's US Attorney's Office. In his posts, DeLorenzo also accused Buglio of “committing a violent crime.”
DeLorenzo said that the police chief “called me, left me a voicemail, and said that he was going to arrest me for a crime that was being investigated for something I've never even done or had any part of.” He added that the police chief told him, “Well, you like to post fake things and fake stories about me, so, I could make up a fake arrest and put you in jail.”
According to the federal charging documents, DeLorenzo and Buglio met at the police department a month later. In the meeting, Buglio doubled down on his threats and “threatened to pursue felony criminal charges” in retaliation to Delorenzo's posts. The charging documents added that, in the meeting, the police chief “acknowledged that the threatened felony charges lacked merit.”
However, the meeting ended with the two reaching an understanding, and even shook hands, after DeLorenzo agreed to remove the posts. But, DeLorenzo later reported the issue to the FBI.
Buglion signed a plea deal on April 22, agreeing to resign from the department after two-and-a-half decades. The charge was a civil rights violation, documented in a criminal information report on May 27, 2021.
In federal law, the punishment for a civil rights violation is a fine, a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison, followed by a year of supervised release. However, the statement from the US Attorney's office hinted Buglio was not going to serve the full sentence.