East Washington police chief pleads guilty to extortion
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East Washington's police chief may be headed for prison following his guilty plea to extortion Friday, as the man who described himself as "the best cop money can buy" confessed that he agreed to guard drug deals and sold police-issue Tasers for cash.
Donald A. Solomon, 56, rose from medic to police officer to chief, earning about $40,000 a year, before an FBI investigation into one of his friends morphed into a sting. The chief lost it all for $8,800.
"It's a public corruption case involving a person in a position of high public trust who said he was the best cop money could buy," said U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton after the plea hearing. He said his office will seek a prison sentence when Chief Solomon is sentenced May 3 before U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti.
In August 2011, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cessar said, Chief Solomon sat in his police vehicle, with several service firearms, in a parking lot as a guard for what he believed to be a multikilogram cocaine deal.
That month, he also agreed to get law enforcement Tasers for a man called Joseph who said he was a dealer. "They were to be used by Joseph to help him collect drug debts," Mr. Cessar said.
In September, Chief Solomon stood guard again, believing he was protecting a 10-kilogram cocaine handoff, and turned over the Tasers, with their serial numbers "obliterated," said Mr. Cessar.
Joseph and his associates were actually FBI agents and informants.
Judge Conti asked Chief Solomon: Do you agree that you did all that?
"I do, your honor," he said calmly.
The maximum penalty for each of three counts of extortion is 20 years in prison, but federal sentences for first-time offenders are usually much shorter than the maximums.
"I'm still shocked by what I heard today," said East Washington solicitor Dennis Makel. "We're going to take steps at this time to terminate his employment."
The borough had previously said that Chief Solomon was terminated, but Mr. Makel said he was actually on unpaid suspension for about 14 months.
The charges against Chief Solomon stemmed from a broad investigation initially aimed at suspected militia activity in Washington County.
Mr. Hickton said the probe reached Chief Solomon via Timothy D. Johnson, 41, of East Washington. Mr. Johnson pleaded guilty in October to 11 federal firearms charges, and faces sentencing Feb. 19.
Mr. Johnson at times lived with Chief Solomon's ex-wife. When the chief's girlfriend left him, he commiserated with Mr. Johnson, who then shot up the car of the woman's new boyfriend, agents have said.
In 25 hours of secretly recorded conversations, Mr. Solomon made comments about his plans to kill the ex-girlfriend, and suggested that someone should kill a borough councilman, FBI agents have said.
Some of the charges against Mr. Johnson relate to sales of guns to Frank G. Archambault, 64, of West Alexander, who pleaded guilty Thursday to being a felon in possession of firearms. He is also to be sentenced May 3.
Until sentencing, Mr. Solomon will be free on bond with a curfew requiring him to be home from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. His Assistant Federal Public Defender Marketa Sims said he has a job that has him working shifts that sometimes end at 9:30 p.m.
She declined comment after the hearing.
First Published January 5, 2013 12:00 am