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Prosecutors: Former police chief should get tougher sentence because of conspiracy plea

| Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, 1:48 p.m.

Former Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper pleaded guilty in October to ordering subordinates to divert public money into police credit union accounts so he cannot seek a lighter sentence based on the argument that he did not lead a criminal conspiracy, federal prosecutors said on Friday.

Harper, 61, of Stanton Heights faces a recommended prison term of 18 to 24 months when U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon sentences him on Tuesday on a conspiracy charge and four counts of failing to file income tax returns.

Harper is asking Bissoon to sentence him to probation. The government is seeking a prison sentence within the range recommended by federal sentencing guidelines.

The former chief's lawyers filed court documents last week arguing that the government has to show that at least one other person involved in diverting the money knew that he or she was committing a crime to prove there was a conspiracy and that Harper was one of its leaders.

The government does not have to show that, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cessar said in a response filed on Friday.

Harper pleaded guilty to a criminal conspiracy and, specifically, to an indictment that “explains that it was the defendant who was instructing police department employees, all of whom were under his command and were co-conspirators, to take various actions,” Cessar said.

Harper's attorneys filed letters from 12 people asking Bissoon to show him leniency, bringing the total letters of support to 27. The letter writers include family members, longtime friends, retired police officers and community activists.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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