The 40-year-old man from a small town in western Pennsylvania met the 14-year-old girl online, prosecutors said. He sent lewd pictures to her and solicited sexual contact and made plans to meet her.
On Friday, the man, Michael W. Diebold, showed up at the place where he and the girl had agreed to get together.
By day, Mr. Diebold is the chief of the Leechburg Police Department, where he oversees two full-time and 15 part-time officers. His department helps protect the 2,000-person borough, about 25 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
And as it turned out, the person Chief Diebold planned to meet on Friday was an undercover member of law enforcement — not the teenage girl he had hoped to find, prosecutors said.
Chief Diebold was charged on Friday with several counts, including two felonies: unlawful contact with a minor and criminal attempt to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, prosecutors said.
“This case is particularly heinous because the perpetrator is a public official, sworn to serve and protect the community,” Josh Shapiro, the Pennsylvania attorney general, said in a statement.
Court documents show that Chief Diebold was sent to the Westmoreland County Prison and his bail was set at $500,000.
In an affidavit of probable cause, the special agent who posed as the girl wrote that he responded to an online advertisement from Chief Diebold in September.
Chief Diebold described himself in the advertisement as a “dominate male police officer” seeking a fun and discreet “playmate,” according to the affidavit. Chief Diebold went by the username “Kutecop4you,” the document said.
The affidavit also provides the text of a message and descriptions of images Chief Diebold sent to the agent who posed as the girl.
After Chief Diebold was charged, the affidavit said, he acknowledged that he knew that sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl “was wrong and illegal and that his life was totally over.”
One of Mr. Diebold’s lawyers, Duke George, said in a phone interview on Sunday that the bond was “exorbitant” and “unbelievable.”
“I represent people on homicide cases that don’t have bonds that high,” Mr. George said. “Up until this point in time concerning the allegations against him, there is nothing in his background that indicates he would be a danger to society.”
Mr. George said that arrangements were being made to post bond and that Chief Diebold would plead not guilty at a preliminary hearing on Jan. 16.
In an interview with The Tribune-Review, Chief Diebold’s mother, Karen Diebold, sought to distance herself from the allegations against her son.
“I just want to say that people have to not blame family members,” she said. “It’s hard enough as it is to go through this.”
She added, “If Mike did it, then he’s going to have to pay the price, but what if he didn’t?”
On Sunday, she declined to comment and referred questions to her son’s lawyers.
Chief Diebold made headlines in June when he lost his left hand and part of his forearm in a fireworks accident. Last year the chief was married and the couple had a baby boy, Wayne Dobos, the mayor of Leechburg, said in a phone interview on Sunday.
“Sometimes something is just so shocking that how do you describe it? What do you say?” he said, adding that he had known Chief Diebold “all his life.”
For the time being, Chief Diebold still holds his position at the Police Department, Mr. Dobos said.
“The community is going to have to heal and everybody is going to have to work together to get this all worked out,” he said. “Who thinks that tomorrow we’ll say, ‘Gee, the chief of police is going to get arrested for soliciting sex from a minor.’ I mean, that doesn’t just run through your mind.”
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