Judge quickly denies Nate Harper's appeal



PITTSBURGH - A federal judge on Tuesday quickly denied former Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper's motion for a new sentence.

Milton Raiford, who is representing Harper in his appeal, filed a motion at 9 a.m. asking U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon to reconsider Harper's sentence (18 months in a federal prison) based on his 10 meetings with the FBI before and after his indictment and the lack of a plea agreement between Harper and the government.

Bissoon issued an order at 2:15 p.m. saying that the appeal doesn't raise any issues that weren't considered at Harper's sentencing two weeks ago and that the lack of a plea agreement was not an issue for the court to consider.

“Defendant has failed to identify clear error that would cause the court to reverse course, and the motion therefore is denied,” Bissoon said.

Bissoon handed down the 18-month prison sentence on Feb. 25. She also ordered 61-year-old Harper to repay $31,986 from a police fund that he spent on himself.

Harper resigned in February 2013, a few weeks before he was indicted on conspiracy charges and charges of failing to file tax returns between 2008 and 2011, when much of the money was misappropriated.

Harper pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to commit theft and the tax charges.

Harper joined the department in 1977 and rose through the ranks to become chief in 2006 under the recently departed mayor, Luke Ravenstahl.

Though Harper's attorneys acknowledge he directed two underlings to set up the accounts, they claim Harper was only following orders -- though they haven't said from whom. Creating the accounts enabled Harper and the police bureau to spend money that would not be traceable in the same way normally budgeted police funds would have been.

Federal prosecutors haven't charged anyone else in the scheme and have refused to comment on defense claims that Harper was ordered to set up the accounts.

Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.