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Judge tells UPMC, city to look into copying Ravenstahl's computer

| Monday, April 7, 2014, 2:20 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Former Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

A federal judge on Monday ordered UPMC and Pittsburgh to let her know by Thursday whether they can make a mirror image of the data on the work computer former Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl took home around the time he left office.

UPMC has asked U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti to allow it to question Ravenstahl and have a specialist examine the computer to determine whether he deleted evidence relevant to a legal battle between the medical giant and the city.

Lee Neubecker, president of Forensicon Inc., said a full forensic image of the computer is a snapshot of “every zero and one that's visible on the hard drive.” Forensicon is a Chicago-based consulting company that specializes in computer forensics.

Using that image, an expert can search for deleted files and access social media caches and other data that simply copying the active files to a new drive wouldn't capture, he said.

“It would be the same as if you were looking at the original drive,” Neubecker said.

The city is claiming in state court that UPMC doesn't meet the definition of a public charity and should be required to pay property and payroll taxes. UPMC claims in federal court that the city's challenge violates its constitutional rights.

The judge last fall issued a preservation order in response to UPMC's concern that changes in city hall would cause evidence to disappear. Ravenstahl served more than seven years as mayor before his tenure ended in early January, when Mayor Bill Peduto took office.

Since the Peduto administration handed the computer over to the FBI, there's a good chance federal investigators have made a mirror image or have sealed the computer to preserve evidence, Neubecker said.

The city and Ravenstahl said in a court filing last week that the former mayor did not delete anything during the 10 days in December and January when he had the computer at his house.

When Ravenstahl returned the computer, Peduto's administration turned it over to the FBI because of the federal investigation into the city's operations under the Ravenstahl administration.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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