LEECHBURG (KDKA) — The suspended Leechburg police chief, who the community once rallied around after a horrific fireworks accident, is speaking out following his arrest earlier this month on felony charges of underage solicitation.READ MORE: 2 Charged In Gunfire During Racial Justice March
Just one month ago, Michael Diebold was trying to return to his job. His police uniform hanging in his home, ready for him to put back on.
But now he is charged with soliciting sex from a minor.
KDKA’s Marty Griffin: “Are you a bad guy?”
Griffin: “Are you a criminal?”
Diebold became a heroic figure during his courageous recovery from a fireworks accident last summer, in which he lost his hand and part of his arm.
The community rallied around him. Hundreds of people donated tens of thousands of dollars toward his recovery and rehabilitation.
Now, he’s facing several felonies, including allegations he used the internet to solicit sex from a 14-year-old girl, who it turned out was actually an undercover agent with the state’s Attorney General’s Office.
Diebold: “It’s just horrible.”
Griffin: “Is it self-inflicted?”
Diebold: “Yeah. I’ve let everybody down, including myself.”READ MORE: COVID-19 In Pennsylvania: State Health Department Reports 2,610 New Coronavirus Cases, 44.1% Of Adult Pennsylvanians Fully Vaccinated
Griffin: “The characterization of you prior to this incident was hero. The characterization of you now is horrible, despicable, disgusting man. How do you wrap your arms around that, Mike?”
Diebold: “I don’t think you can.”
Griffin: “You know this, right?”
Diebold: “Oh, without a doubt.”
Diebold was not allowed by his lawyers to discuss the criminal case, but he knows he faces jail time. He says he’d go to prison today to get his wife and young son back.
“Everybody thinks that if you’re in this situation, your biggest fear is going to jail or going to prison,” said Diebold. “If Danielle and Kyle were at the end of that journey, you could send me away for 10 years. They’re the two most important things in my life.”
But Diebold’s wife is devastated following her husband’s arrest.
“My whole world is just turned upside down,” she said in an interview last week.
Diebold says he watched her interview, and he blames himself.
“If Danielle were here, I would drop to my knees, beg for any type of forgiveness I could ever receive, beg to be allowed to be Kyle’s father. I know I have destroyed the trust,” Diebold said.
Danielle has a received a Protection from Abuse Order, of PFA, against her husband. Her concern is that he could hurt her and others.
KDKA’s Marty Griffin spoke with her on Thursday, and she says she is terrified. There is a hearing on the PFA next week.
But Diebold will be in court Friday for a preliminary hearing on the charges against him. He faces unlawful contact with a minor and criminal attempt to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.MORE NEWS: Pittsburgh Police Safely Locate Previously Missing Teen Siobhan Barnett
He faces more than 20 years in prison.