Protected Speech

Pennsylvania Police Chief Resigns After Threatening Facebook Critic with Arrest

In this Dec. 2, 2019, file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this photo illustration. (Reuters/Johanna Geron)

A police chief in Pennsylvania has pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation for threatening to arrest a private citizen unless he removed Facebook posts that criticized the chief. 

In February 2020, Brian Buglio, the police chief of the West Hazleton Police Department in Pennsylvania discovered a series of posts on Facebook accusing him of committing a violent crime, among other allegations. Buglio then asked the author, Paul DeLorenzo, to come to the station.

According to DeLorenzo, who spoke with WNEP-TV, during their meeting, Bulgio gave him an ultimatum: either delete the posts and agree to stop criticizing the department, or the chief would make up fake charges to arrest him. 

“I said to Brian, ‘Why are you doing this?’ He goes, ‘Well, you like to post fake things and fake stories about me so, I could make up a fake arrest and put you in jail.'” 

After the meeting, DeLorenzo called the Federal Bureau of Investigation to report their conversation. Buglio, a 25-year veteran police officer,  is now facing federal charges for violating DeLorenzo’s civil rights. 

According to a document obtained by The New York Times, Buglio pled guilty on May 25th to “one count of deprivation of civil rights under color of law and agreed to resign from his position within 10 days of his plea agreement.” The maximum penalty for civil rights violation is up to one year of imprisonment and $100,000 in fines.

The Washington Post The New York Times