The former police chief of Naples, Utah, has been charged with criminal defamation, and is accused of posing as the current chief online and offending U.S. Border Patrol agents.
The charge against Steven C. Guibord, 56, is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. The charge was filed last week in the Uintah County justice court.
What is criminal defamation?
According to Utah law: “A person is guilty of criminal defamation if he knowingly communicates to any person orally or in writing any information which he knows to be false and knows will tend to expose any other living person to public hatred, contempt or ridicule.”
Naples’ current police chief, Mark Watkins, said he doesn’t know why his former boss would pose as him. But the episode spurred city leaders to send letters of apology to the families of two Border Patrol agents who were killed last year.
Watkins said that last year he started to receive emails and U.S. mail critical of what Watkins supposedly posted on a website honoring law enforcement personnel killed in the line of duty in May.
The statements attributed to Watkins referred to the Border Patrol as a "security organization" rather than law enforcement, and appeared on pages remembering two agents.
"I had a whole bunch of Border Patrol Agents and retired border patrol agents that were fit to be tied," Watkins said Wednesday in an interview.
There also was a posting on the website, attributed to Watkins, describing a police shooting Watkins was involved in 11 years earlier.
Watkins was in such a shooting. But Watkins didn’t write the postings, he said.
He contacted the website, Officer Down Memorial Page, and asked for the IP address of the poster using his name.
The address belonged to a private security firm working in Afghanistan, Watkins said. Watkins contacted that firm and asked it to further trace the address. The firm said the address belonged to a computer assigned to Guibord.
"I just about fell off my chair," Watkins said.
The investigation eventually was turned over to the Utah Department of Public Safety.
Guibord has been issued a summons to appear in court for arraignment Feb. 23. Court records say he lives in Bountiful now, but listed phone numbers for him did not work Wednesday.
Guibord resigned from the Naples Police Department in 2008. Watkins worked as a sergeant and then a lieutenant under Guibord and said the two had a good working relationship. As he was leaving, Guibord even encouraged Watkins to apply for the chief’s job, Watkins said.
The Naples’ mayor and city council have sent letters to families sent letters to the families of the two agents apologizing and blaming the postings on a disgruntled former employee, Watkins said.
Watkins said he received 11 emails Wednesday morning from Border Agents apologizing to him or thanking him for setting the record straight.
"That’s nice to see, versus what I’ve been putting up with for the last eight months," Watkins said.
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