PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Former Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges.
Harper must also pay $31,000 in restitution.
“I made a mistake that tarnished the law enforcement community and my family. I’m a broken man. I’m ashamed of what I did. It was a lapse in judgment,” Harper said on the stand.
Harper pleaded guilty back in October to conspiracy and tax evasion charges.
Harper admitted to diverting more than $70,000 of public funds into an unauthorized account and then used $30,000 of that money for his own personal expenses.
He also admitted to not filing tax returns for four years.
Family and friends of Harper clearly were upset with the 18-month jail sentence and the crush of cameras following him to his car outside the federal courthouse Tuesday.
Harper had just told the judge tearfully that he made a mistake and had tarnished the law enforcement community and his family.
At one point in the crush of cameras, Harper’s daughter was overcome with emotion. Her father, who had already been escorted to the car, got back out to get her.
Community leaders who spoke as character witnesses were clearly shaken that jail rather than probation was imposed.
“We know mistakes were made, but there are other alternatives I do believe that we can address when mistakes are made, particularly when you don’t have a criminal record and you’re a first offender,” said community activist Rashad Byrdsong.
But Federal Judge Cathy Bissoon told Harper kind words from supporters do not erase a breach of the public trust and that the spending of public money moved to a private account was just such a breach along with failure to pay income taxes.
But Harper’s lawyers admitted given the sentencing guidelines, this option was no surprise.
“The guidelines were clear,” said defense attorney Bob DelGreco. “It’s not as if we didn’t know what the guidelines would be. We knew that was the range.”
Meanwhile, the federal prosecutor said the city investigation continues, but the investigation that began with Harper’s relationship with businessman Art Bedway over city police equipment contracts is closed.
Bedway was sentenced to probation.
“There have been questions raised whether Harper will face additional charges relating to the awarding of a contract to Alpha Outfitters,” said U.S. Attorney David Hickton. “He will not.”
But Hickton says the investigation of city accounts connected to the transfer of public funds is ongoing.
Mayor Bill Peduto issued a statement shortly after the sentencing hearing:
“This is a sad day for our city, but a chance for rebirth within our police bureau. With the community’s support, I am committed to breaking with the past, championing ethics and accountability from top to bottom, and rebuilding a department that all city residents, including rank and file officers, can be proud of.”
Watch Kym Gable’s report: