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Ex-Apollo police chief sentenced to jail on theft charges

| Thursday, July 18, 2013, 2:44 p.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Armstrong County Deputy Sheriff Frank Shumaker escorts former Apollo police chief Paul Breznican to the county jail on Thursday, July 18, 2013.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Armstrong County Deputy Sheriff Frank Shumaker escorts former Apollo police chief Paul Breznican to the county jail on Thursday, July 18, 2013.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Armstrong County Deputy Sheriff Frank Shumaker escorts former Apollo police chief Paul Breznican to the county jail on Thursday, July 18, 2013.
File photo
Former Apollo police chief Paul Breznican.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Armstrong Deputy Sherif Frank Shumaker escorts former Apollo Police Chief Paul L. Breznican Jr to the county jail. Thursday July 18, 2013

Apollo's former police chief is now an inmate in the Armstrong County Jail.

Armstrong County Judge James J. Panchik sentenced Paul L. Breznican Jr., 53, of Apollo on Thursday to serve nine to 27 months in the county lockup.

Breznican pleaded guilty in May to felony charges of theft, theft by deception and receiving stolen property, and to two misdemeanor charges involving the theft and sale of police guns and equipment.

In handing down the sentence, Panchik said he was not affording Breznican any special consideration: “Justice requires equal treatment.”

The state Attorney General's office prosecuted the case. Prosecutors withdrew 15 felony charges as part of a plea agreement, but made no recommendation on sentencing.

Senior Deputy Attorney General William Caye II, who handled the state's case, complimented the judge on his thoroughness.

“At the end of the day, it was a fair and just sentence,” Caye said. “That sentence is a standard sentence.”

Breznican's attorney, Duke George, also acknowledged that Panchik “took everything into consideration.

“I understand the judge's decision,” he said. “The sentence is fair under the circumstances.”

Panchik sent Breznican to jail despite George arguing that his client was a “perfect candidate” for house arrest.

Breznican was taken from Panchik's courtroom to the jail after Panchik denied George's request for Breznican to be allowed to report to the jail later.

Breznican was arrested in July 2012 on charges he sold a firearm bought with federal grant money and pocketed the cash. Apollo Council suspended him that month and fired him in November.

He had been free on bond. His guilty plea averted a trial.

Breznican, wearing a white shirt and tie, was accompanied to sentencing by his wife, stepdaughter and brother-in-law.

Apollo Councilman Darhl Goldinger was the only borough official to attend the sentencing. He had no comment.

A police officer who once worked with Breznican, Goldinger said he attended as a police officer out of curiosity. In court, he said he was there to observe.

Before sentencing, Breznican took the witness stand and offered a “sincere apology” to his former law enforcement colleagues and to the voters, residents and taxpayers of Apollo.

“I made a huge mistake. I'm deeply remorseful for my actions,” he said.

In arguing for house arrest, George said Breznican has had to endure the loss of his job, pension and reputation. Breznican has accepted responsibility for his actions, George said.

“My client is no risk in the community. He poses no threat to the community. It wouldn't serve any purpose whatsoever for my client to be incarcerated. He'd love to go home and spend the rest of his life with his family,” he said.

Panchik said he took Breznican's background into consideration, including his military and community service, along with testimonials from neighbors, family, friends and business associates.

He noted that Breznican had no criminal record.

Panchik said that Breznican cooperated in a pre-sentence investigation, which he said not many do.

“The court takes no pleasure in sentencing you whatsoever,” Panchik said.

But Panchik said he acknowledged the public nature of Breznican's offense.

“Your case also presents the situation of a government official who broke the laws he was charged and paid to enforce. It's a dilemma,” he said.

Panchik said his goal is to avoid giving anyone special treatment, including law-enforcement personnel.

“We try to treat everyone equally and fairly. That's because the public is entitled to justice,” he said.

Breznican's sentence of nine to 27 months in jail was on felony charges of theft and theft by deception. A felony charge of receiving stolen property was merged with the theft charge, with no further penalty.

No further penalties were imposed on misdemeanor charges of misapplication of entrusted property and obstructing the administration of law.

Breznican was given credit for one day served in jail. He was ordered to pay $500 to the county, and a supervision fee of $50 per month.

He was also ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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