Police chief who threatened Facebook critic with false arrest pleads guilty

Written By: Neil Vigdor © 2021 The New York Times The New York Times
Washington, United States Published: Jun 02, 2021, 09:41 AM(IST)

The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this picture illustration taken December 2, 2019. (File Photo) Photograph:( Reuters )

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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.

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 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, authorities said.

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The person agreed at the time to remove the posts from Facebook and to refrain from making future comments about Buglio and the police, according to a criminal complaint that was filed Thursday in federal court in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

"During the meeting, Brian Buglio acknowledged that the threatened felony charges lacked merit," federal prosecutors said in the criminal complaint, adding that Buglio and the person had shaken hands over the "deal".

Buglio, 45, of Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty 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.

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A lawyer for Buglio did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.

Federal prosecutors said that the FBI’s public corruption task force had investigated the case.

Authorities did not identify the person whom the chief threatened to have arrested, but the television station WNEP reported that it was a man who lives in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Efforts to reach him 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.

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 Tuesday night. A person who answered the phone at the home of the borough manager hung up when contacted Tuesday night.

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. Buglio has been employed by the Police Department since 1996 and became a police officer in 1995, the website says.

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