Former Apollo chief pleads guilty
Former Apollo police Chief Paul L. Breznican pleaded guilty on Friday to three felony charges involving the theft of an AR-15 police rifle.
The prosecution withdrew 15 felony charges against Breznican, 53, of Apollo.
Breznican replied yes each time when Armstrong County Judge James Panchik asked whether he was pleading guilty to theft, theft by deception, receiving stolen property, and two lesser charges.
The ex-chief remains out of jail on bond. Sentencing is scheduled for mid-July.
Senior state Deputy Attorney General William F. Caye II, who prosecuted the case, said the 15 felony charges were all connected to the same course of action involving theft. He said the plea agreement prevented what could have been a long trial.
Caye said Breznican could receive nine to 16 months in jail for each of the three felony charges.
Defense attorney Duke George said he will ask the judge to consider Breznican's lack of a criminal record prior to the theft charges and his service in the National Guard.
George also will ask the court to take into consideration what could happen if a former police officer is sent to a state prison.
Breznican joined the Apollo Police Department in about 1998. He was its K-9 officer before Apollo Council promoted him in 2006 from lieutenant to acting officer in charge, and later to chief.
Breznican was on disability leave when he was suspended by council in July and fired in November.
He won election to a council seat in 2011, only to later agree to give up the seat as a result of a legal challenge.
Records show the Colt AR-15 rifle in question was purchased with a 2007 federal grant.
Caye said the rifle has been recovered from a man who bought it and some ammunition from Breznican.
Police also have recovered a tear gas gun and tear gas baton, but not some private firearms that Breznican took after they were confiscated, Caye said.
“It's pretty clear that his law enforcement days are over,” said Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi, who turned over prosecution to the AG's office because of perceived conflict of interest.
In July, state police filed nearly 30 counts against Breznican involving several actions dating back as far as 2005.
Six counts were withdrawn and a bribery charge was dismissed well before the plea bargain was offered and accepted.
Caye said Breznican didn't try to evade questions from the judge on Friday.
“The important thing is that the dangerous rifle — the AR-15 — is off the street,” Caye said.
“He said he was pleading guilty because he was guilty,” Caye said.
It's sad that a police chief was involved because it might cause some people to ask whether other police do similar things, Caye added.
“I hope the other chiefs get on board with Armstrong County's hard-working district attorney to get some policies in place about property in evidence,” Caye said.
The DA and his staff routinely meet with police to remind them about how to secure property in a crime so the needed chain of custody can be maintained, Andreassi said.
Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.