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Diebold’s pending release irks some Leechburg residents

Chuck Biedka
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Former Leechburg police Chief Mike Diebold’s plan to move into his mother’s Siberian Avenue home after his expected release from prison on Sunday is irking some residents, who say the convicted sex offender shouldn’t be allowed to live there because it’s too close to three schools.

But there’s nothing they can do about it, according to the law.

Leechburg Mayor Wayne Dobos said he has talked with some borough residents who are upset by Diebold moving back to the borough.

“I hear some people are going to have signs up in their yards to object. Well, that’s their right. I reminded them that, whatever they do, it must be legal,” he said.

He also hopes residents understand that the borough is powerless to stop Diebold from living in Leechburg.

Megan’s law, the rules that govern the registration of convicted sex offenders, does not, as many seem to believe, regulate where those offenders can live after they’re released from prison.

Diebold, 41, became well-known after a devastating fireworks accident blew off part of his left arm on July 24, 2017.

Using an artificial arm, he was trying to return to duty as a police officer — the only job he had known — when he was arrested by state Attorney General’s Office agents in January 2018 in Lower Burrell. In December he pleaded guilty to attempting to solicit sex via the internet from an undercover agent posing as a 14-year-old girl.

A Westmoreland County judge sentenced him to nine to 23 months in jail. With credit for time served in jail awaiting trial, he is eligible for parole this weekend.

He is scheduled to be released on probation Sunday, his attorney, Duke George, said.

Only county judges may issue court orders limiting where sexual offenders may or may not reside, according to Barb Jollie, a Westmoreland County assistant district attorney who prosecutes sex offender cases.

“Many people misunderstand the purpose of Megan’s Law,” she said.

Megan’s Law is “an opportunity to look on the registry to see if one of their neighbors is there. Megan’s Law doesn’t limit where offenders live and whether they should or shouldn’t be allowed around children,” Jollie added.

“It’s up to parents to decide who to keep their kids away from and to check or not check the Megan’s list,” Jollie said.

Diebold is listed on the Megan’s Law sex offender’s website maintained by state police.

Although Megan’s Law does not restrict where a sex offender can live, an offender may have specific restrictions under some circumstances, according to Mari B. Pierce, an associate professor and program coordinator of the Administration of Justice program at Penn State University’s Beaver campus.

Probation or parole terms, in addition to court orders, can also spell out where offenders can’t live, Pierce said.

That wasn’t ordered for Diebold.

When released from prison, “registered sex offenders have a right to be in the community,” she added.

“There were no court restrictions on where he can live,” George said. “No restrictions.”

George said Diebold wants to obey the law and work for his family’s electrical business, also in Leechburg.

Under Diebold’s court-ordered sentence, he will be on probation for three years.

A county judge did order that Diebold not have unsupervised contact with minors. He can see his young son only under terms set by family court.

He must comply with sex offender registration, reporting to state police twice annually. He must not use the Internet except for work and he was ordered not to use social media.

But the conditions of his release do not contain any restrictions on where Diebold can live.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, [email protected] or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.