Suspended Leechburg police Chief Mike Diebold free on bond while awaiting hearing
Mike Diebold, the suspended Leechburg police chief facing child predator charges, has been released from jail after posting bond, his attorney confirmed Thursday night.
Attorney Duke George said Diebold was released from the Westmoreland County Prison, which is the county jail.
“The only comment I (will) make is I'm glad he's out,” George said. “Now he's entitled to his (due) process, and we'll see what happens between now and the finalization of these charges.”
Diebold, 40, of Forks Church Road, Gilpin, is accused of soliciting sex via the internet from someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl but actually was a special agent for the state Attorney General's Office's predator task force.
He was arrested Jan. 5 after arranging to meet with the person he thought was the girl at the Lower Burrell Sheetz.
Diebold had been jailed since his arrest on $500,000 straight bond. Straight bond requires the suspect to post the entire amount, either in cash or property, as collateral to assure that the suspect doesn't skip out on upcoming court proceedings.
George said earlier that he would seek to have the bond reduced at Diebold's preliminary hearing, scheduled for Jan. 19. He thought the $500,000 bond was too high for the crimes that Diebold is accused of.
District Judge Cheryl Peck Yakopec rejected Diebold's request at his arraignment for recognizance bond, which would have allowed Diebold to remain free without posting any cash or property.
She responded, in part, that she set a high bond because “I am not sure that if you are out of jail the community would be safe. These are very serious charges.”
Diebold's arrest papers show the investigation into Diebold began in September when he placed an online advertisement seeking a “discreet sub playmate” of “any age, race or status.”
He allegedly went by the user name “kutecop4you.”
The undercover agent with the state Attorney General's Office responded, purporting to be a 14-year-old girl in the eighth grade.
Authorities say Diebold responded with sexually explicit encouragement and requested to meet the girl.
Posing as the girl, the AG's agent asked to meet Diebold in person. Diebold was arrested when he showed up at the Sheetz.
Authorities say in the interview that followed, “Diebold admitted to being the individual who was communicating with the purported child during all the communications.”
George said he continues to be Diebold's attorney despite reports that Diebold would be represented by the local Fraternal Order of Police.
Attempts to reach Diebold, his estranged wife, Danielle Reinke Diebold, and his mother, Karen Diebold, on Thursday night were unsuccessful.
Knocks at the door of the Diebold family home went unanswered.
Mayor Wayne Dobos was aware that Diebold was freed on bond when a reporter spoke to him at his home Thursday night.
He said people are “upset” and “disgusted with the whole thing.”
“I think it's absolutely disgraceful, horrendous — it's just mind-boggling,” Dobos said of the allegations.
Dobos said he doesn't know where Diebold is staying.
“I haven't talked to any of his family since before he was arrested,” he said.
Dobos suspended Diebold without pay Monday.
Dobos said there are no plans to bring in a new police chief while Diebold is suspended.
“As of right now, we have to leave things as they are,” he said. “... The two full-time officers who are there are taking care of doing his job. They're sharing the load.”
Councilman Chuck Pascal said Diebold is no different than any other defendant free on bond while awaiting trial.
“Bond is not meant to be punishment, but rather to guarantee that a defendant will appear in court when required,” said Pascal, an attorney. “The criminal justice system gets it right more often than it gets it wrong, and we all should have confidence in the process.
“We should let the system do what it does best — determine the truth and mete out justice.”
Three other Leechburg Council members that could be reached for comment Thursday night all said they first heard that Diebold was out on bond through a reporter seeking comment.
President Tom Foster and Vice President Anthony Defilippi declined to comment.
“Since I'm hearing this first from you, I have no comment,” Foster said.
Councilman Christian Vaccaro said he was surprised that Diebold had posted bond.
“It was my understanding that the bond was set at $500,000, and it was a straight bond,” he said.
Vaccaro said he is awaiting information from the mayor and council regarding Diebold's employment status, and expects it to be discussed at council's next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 16.
“I would like to see us follow through with being able to take actions ... regarding his employment to the full extent of what the law will allow us, and that we also ... find ways ... to be able to help heal the community, which is reeling as a result of this terrible event,” he said.
Freelance writer Joyce Hanz and staff writer Emily Balser contributed to this report. Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @maddyczebstrib.