A police chief in Pennsylvania who threatened a critic with false arrest unless the person deleted Facebook posts attacking him has pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation.
The chief, Brian Buglio of the West Hazleton, Pa., Police Department, made the threats in March 2020 to a private citizen, telling the person that he would pursue felony charges in retaliation for several social media posts that were directed at him and the police, the authorities said.
The person agreed at the time to remove the posts from Facebook and to refrain from making future comments about Chief Buglio and the police, according to a criminal complaint that was filed on Thursday in federal court in Scranton, Pa.
“During the meeting, Brian Buglio acknowledged that the threatened felony charges lacked merit,” federal prosecutors said in the criminal complaint, adding that Chief Buglio and the person had shaken hands over the “deal.”
Chief Buglio, 45, of Lattimer Mines, Pa., pleaded guilty on Friday to one count of deprivation of civil rights under color of law and agreed to resign within 10 days of entering into the plea agreement, according to a copy of that agreement.
A lawyer for Chief Buglio did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday night.
Federal prosecutors said that the F.B.I.’s public corruption task force had investigated the case.
The authorities did not identify the person whom Chief Buglio threatened to have arrested, but the television station WNEP reported that it was a man who lives in East Stroudsburg, Pa. Efforts to reach him on Tuesday night were not successful. The station reported that the man had said that the chief told him that since the man liked to post fake stories, he could make up a fake arrest.
Chief Buglio’s current employment status was not immediately clear.
The mayor of West Hazleton, a borough of fewer than 5,000 people about 45 minutes southwest of Scranton, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday night.
A person who answered the phone at the home of the borough manager hung up when contacted on Tuesday night.
Chief Buglio could face up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, according to the plea agreement.
According to the borough’s website, the West Hazleton Police Department has four full-time and four part-time police officers. Chief Buglio has been employed by the Police Department since 1996 and became a police officer in 1995, the website says.
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