FBI arrests East Washington police chief, takes papers

| Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011

The FBI removed a number of documents from the borough building of a small Washington County community after arresting the police chief on Friday.

Donald A. Solomon, 55, who has been chief of East Washington's 17-member police force for two years, was arrested by federal agents for violations of the Hobbs Act, said Mayor Mark Pacilla said.

Pacilla said he wasn't told the specific allegations against Solomon, but federal authorities often use Hobbs Act statutes in public-corruption cases.

"I'm shocked. I really am shocked," Pacilla said. "I want to see exactly what the charges are."

Solomon, who also is an emergency medical technician in the borough, remains in federal custody. Pacilla said he understands that an initial court appearance is scheduled for Monday.

Washington County District Attorney Steven M. Toprani said his office was in contact with federal authorities before the arrest. He said he isn't at liberty to discuss the case.

A federal judge has decided that the indictment should remain under seal, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Pacilla said he didn't learn about the investigation until the FBI summoned him to the borough building yesterday morning.

"They served me with a subpoena for some records. They left after obtaining them," the mayor said.

Solomon, who is married and has children, served as a patrolman in the borough for about 10 years before being named chief of the force, which consists of a full-time chief and 17 part-time officers.

Pacilla described Solomon as "a very competent officer and a very competent administrator."

Solomon was suspended with pay, pending further action by borough council, the mayor said.

Pacilla said borough officials are cooperating with federal investigators.

"We'll work with the FBI to see whatever else there is, if anything," he said.

East Washington, just outside the city of Washington, has about 2,000 residents. The Washington & Jefferson College campus is spread over both communities.

Any time that federal authorities take action against law enforcement officials, there is a rippling effect in the community, Toprani said. "On the other hand, it shows that the laws are being enforced equally."

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