Former Pittsburgh police chief Nathan Harper has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for conspiring to create an unauthorized slush fund, diverting public money and failing to pay income taxes.
U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon also ordered 61-year-old Harper on Tuesday to repay $31,986 from the fund that he spent on himself.
An emotional Nate Harper addressed the court before hearing his sentence.
“I’m a broken man,” he said, adding that he’ll carry with him to his grave the embarrassment he said he caused his family and friends.
Harper’s attorneys Robert Del Greco and Robert Leight had asked for leniency in sentencing, requesting probation or home detention.
“We’re just extremely disappointed in the sentence,” Leight said. “This is a very good man. There are other ways to punish Mr. Harper besides 18 months in prison.”
Harper resigned a few weeks before he was indicted on conspiracy charges and failing to file tax returns between 2008 and 2011. He pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to commit theft as well as the tax charges.
Harper’s attorneys had argued that his punishment has already been severe and swift in the form of his lost position, public humiliation and what they characterized as vilification by the media. They also said it could be dangerous to send an ex-police chief to prison.
Ten friends and former colleagues of Harper’s testified on his behalf, many pointed to decades of good works.
U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon said she believed Harper’s apology to be sincere, but that no amount of kind words can erase his crimes. She went on to say that this is one of the hardest decisions a judge has to make, and that she believes deep down Harper is still a lawman. What she said next was later echoed by U.S. Attorney David Hickton.
“While none of us like this and certainly Nate Harper did not enjoy what happened today, as a lawman he understands,” Hickton said.
Hickton said the sentence is appropriate and that Harper will face no additional charges stemming from an equipment contract with Alpha Outfitters. Hickton also said the federal investigation involving the city of Pittsburgh continues.
“The FBI and the IRS criminal investigation group are conducting their work in coordination with the United States Attorney’s Office,” Hickton said. “I am not able, nor would it be appropriate for me, to comment on the specifics of that investigation.”
Federal prosecutors sought a term between 18 and 24 months in prison.