Leechburg police chief who lost arm is charged as online child predator |
Valley News Dispatch

Leechburg police chief who lost arm is charged as online child predator

Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Leechburg Police Chief Mike Diebold (center) is escorted to a police car from the Lower Burrell police station after his arrest on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
In this photo from July, Leechburg Police Chief Mike Diebold talks about the fireworks accident that took part of his left arm while recuperating at UPMC Mercy hospital in Pittsburgh.
Leechburg police Chief Mike Diebold

Leechburg police Chief Mike Diebold has been accused of soliciting sex from an undercover agent posing online as a 14-year-old girl.

Diebold was arrested and charged with unlawful contact with a minor and criminal attempt to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, according to the state Attorney General's Office.

Diebold, 40, of Forks Church Road, Gilpin, was arrested Friday after arranging to meet with the person he thought was a girl, according to a statement released by Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

He was picked up during a sting at the Lower Burrell Sheetz, according to Lower Burrell police Chief Tim Weitzel.

Agents of the Attorney General's Child Predator Section took Diebold into custody at the meeting site without incident.

According to Shapiro, Diebold sent inappropriate pictures to the undercover agent prior to the meeting and solicited the agent for unlawful sexual contact.

“This case is particularly heinous because the perpetrator is a public official, sworn to serve and protect the community,” Shapiro said in the statement. “We have a zero- tolerance policy for the sexual abuse of children, and my office will prosecute any offender to the fullest extent of the law, no matter who they are.”

A Trib reporter present for his arraignment asked Diebold if he had any comment.

“Everything is not in the affidavit,” Diebold replied.

What state agents allege

According to Diebold's affidavit, or arrest papers:

The investigation started Sept. 15, 2017, when Diebold placed an online advertisement that began, “Dominate (sic) male police officer seeks fun, discreet sub playmate.” He was seeking a partner of “any age, race or status.” He allegedly went by the user name “kutecop4you.”

An undercover agent with the state Attorney General's Office responded, saying “on multiple occasions” that they were a 14-year-old girl in the eighth grade.

Authorities say Diebold was undeterred.

They say he responded with sexually explicit encouragement and requested to meet the girl, saying “we just need to meet.”

Diebold's arrest papers next describe an incident that allegedly occurred Dec. 29. They say kutecop4you's account included six photos that showed a man's clothed, but highly suggestive, groin along with suggestive text.

With the last photo, the poster wrote: “Now it's your turn.”

The AG's agent wrote that he obtained subpoenas for the website and Verizon Wireless. Authorities say the sender's information came back to Diebold, a relative and the Leechburg Police Department.

Posing as the girl, the AG's agent asked to meet Diebold in person.

Then on Friday afternoon, shortly after 1 p.m., authorities say Diebold showed up at Sheetz, the prearranged meeting spot, and was arrested.

Authorities say in the interview that followed, “Diebold admitted to being the individual who was communicating with the purported child during all the communications.”

They say he acknowledged that the user name and profile picture, as well as communications with the purported girl, were his.

“Diebold admitted that he knew that sexual contact with a 14 year (old) child was wrong and illegal and that his life was totally over.”

They say that Diebold's cellphone that he had when arrested included a message thread with the girl.

Authorities say Diebold “stated that he has been utilizing the internet to post ads in the personal sections for the last several years.”

Diebold arraigned

Diebold arrived at District Judge Cheryl Peck Yakopec's office handcuffed and shackled.

Diebold's left sleeve on his light jacket was empty because he wasn't wearing his prosthetic arm.

Only Yakopec, two attorney general's special agents and Senior Deputy Attorney General Chuck Washburn were present for Diebold's arraignment.

Yakopec reviewed the three charges against him and asked the AG who is filing charges for his bond recommendations.

Special Agent Daniel Block asked for a bond of $500,000 straight, no unsupervised contact with anyone under age 18 and no internet access.

Yakopec asked Diebold if he had been in trouble before.

“No,” he said politely.

She asked about his home and was told he has a 15-year-old stepdaughter and an infant son.

Diebold said he would have a place outside of his home to stay if necessary.

“There were also guns in your home?” the district judge asked.

“I understand they went in and took them,” he replied.

“How many did you have?” Yakopec asked.

Diebold said he had four long guns and a number of handguns “accumulated over a long period.”

Said Yakopec, “That's a lot.”

Diebold asked Yakopec for recognizance bond.

“You may have noticed that I am disabled and, for my safety, I ask that I not go to the jail,” he asked.

“These are serious charges, and he is a public servant,” Block replied.

Yakopec set bond at $500,000.

Diebold asked the judge to reconsider bond.

“I have been part of the community for quite a while, I own a home, and I have never been in trouble. Bond is supposed to guarantee that the defendant attend the preliminary hearing,” he said.

“Yes, that's true,” Yakopec said. “So is the safety of the community. I am not sure if you are out of jail that the community would be safe. These are very serious charges.”

Diebold was given a chance to make a phone call and was to be taken to the Westmoreland County jail in lieu of bond.

Diebold's preliminary hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 18 in Yakopec's office.

Leechburg officials react

Mayor Wayne Dobos and two councilmen who could be reached for comment expressed shock about Diebold's arrest.

“All I can tell you is I'm shocked,” Dobos said. “I don't know what else to say.”

The mayor was asked about Diebold's status as chief as the news was breaking Friday afternoon.

“Right at the moment, he's still the police chief,” Dobos said. “I'll have to get with the lawyers and the council and go from there. This is all breaking news, and it's Friday already, so it will be Monday till we can start calling the lawyers and see what goes on.”

A portion of Diebold's left arm was blown off by fireworks on June 24. He now uses a mechanical arm.

Diebold has been on medical leave and last month reached an agreement with Leechburg Council to return to work. His return hinged on his completion of a fitness exam to determine whether he can perform his job.

The mayor and council had moved cautiously as Diebold went through the process of returning to work.

Dobos said the AG's investigation wasn't anything that Leechburg officials were privy to and did not have any hand in the delay in Diebold's reinstatement as police chief.

“We had no idea about this, and it had nothing to do with (Diebold's) reinstatement.”

Councilman Christian Vaccaro said the Trib reporter calling for comment gave him the first account of the news.

“What?” he asked. After a reporter related the charges, Vaccaro said: “This is something that comes as a big surprise and it's disappointing to hear, and I'm going to let the justice system take its course.”

After learning how Diebold had allegedly been caught, Vaccaro said: “That's very unfortunate to hear.”

Newly elected Leechburg Councilman Chuck Pascal said he had no idea this allegedly was going on, and he is confident that no one on council or the mayor did, either.

Pascal said he found out about the situation through news reports.

He said Diebold's alleged behavior “makes very little sense.”

“My experience with him is that I would expect that he would be a lot smarter than what is being alleged.”

A lawyer, Pascal said Diebold being suspended is an eventuality because of state law.

“Until I see an affidavit, I don't know what else we can say,” he said of the allegations. “Obviously, under the law, he will be suspended at this point pending the outcome of the charges.”

Leechburg resident Clyde Lindsey said he knew that Diebold had been arrested but didn't know what for until a Trib reporter called for comment.

“Oh my god,” he said. “That's absolutely horrible. I would never ever have thought in a million years that … I just really am shocked.

“This is a family man that seemed to be a fantastic guy. Honestly, never met the guy — I've seen him.

“But to hear something like that is just disheartening. I feel terrible for the family because what they're about to go through is just heartbreaking.”

Freelance writer Joyce Hanz contributed to this report. Chuck Biedka and Madasyn Czebiniak are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach Biedka at 724-226-4711, [email protected] or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka. Reach Czebiniak at 724-226-4702, [email protected] or via Twitter @maddyczebstrib.

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