Essential Pittsburgh
3:46 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

In the Case of Nate Harper, Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, believes that the sentencing was right for Nate Harper.
David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, believes that the sentencing was right for Nate Harper.
Credit University of Pittsburgh Law School

Roughly one year ago Nate Harper resigned from his post as Pittsburgh Police Chief. Soon after his resignation, Harper was indicted with conspiracy charges and failing to file tax returns.

Yesterday US District Judge Cathy Bissoon sentenced Harper to 18 months in prison as well as repayment of the $31,986 for the slush fund that he spent on himself.

University of Pittsburgh Law Professor David Harris thinks the sentencing of Nate Harper was very important and says Harper would have gotten away with the crime if he just received probation.

“There were many people who said that prison would be piling on, and that it might even be dangerous. And I would disagree with that,” said Harris.

He went on to say, “Chief Harper was a public official, a high public official and I think he’d be the first one to tell you, he didn’t just make a mistake. He betrayed the public trust and when a person of high rank and great responsibility betrays the public trust other considerations come in that maybe would not be there if it was just a regular Joe or Jane. These folks have been in the public spotlight, they have led, they have been out there as people who have command of special functions or serve in a legislature or whatever it is and for them to turn around and steal from the public, just to take this case as an example but corruption comes in many forms we know, is a betrayal of the very office that they hold.”

Harris shared the same view as U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon when realizing that the case had to send a message.

“And that simply cannot go unaddressed in a way that people would be tempted to say, ‘Well he just got away with it.’”