Man whose bribes triggered investigations of Pittsburgh government sentenced to probation


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A beaming Art Bedway stood on the U.S. Courthouse steps minutes after his sentencing on bribery charges Tuesday. Asked on that rainy morning what he planned to do next, his answer came quickly.

"Probably go to Florida and enjoy the sun," the Robinson businessman told reporters.

His attorney, Marty Dietz, said that it's not yet clear, under the terms of his sentence of three years of probation, whether Bedway can immediately travel. Certain, though, is that he won't be traveling to prison.

Art Bedway's attorney talks about probation sentence

Art Bedway, the businessman whose bribes spurred a federal probe of Pittsburgh government, was sentenced to three years of probation and a $30,000 fine. (Video by Nate Guidry; 1/14/2014)

He's 64, he did charity work and is barred by virtue of his conviction from his life's work in the security business, noted U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon, after adding a $30,000 fine to the probationary sentence.

Perhaps most important, he cooperated with prosecutors and his "characterization on why he participated in this scheme remains unchallenged," the judge said. "The court finds Mr. Bedway's explanation of his crime credible, but not excusable."

Bedway's explanation was, as Mr. Dietz put it, that former city police chief "Nate Harper solicited him" to join a scheme to win a city contract.

Bedway pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and mail fraud related to a contract awarded in 2007 to Esplen-based Alpha Outfitters. That firm, which Bedway controlled, got the job of installing and maintaining computers and radios in city police vehicles, and was paid $327,729 for the work.

Bedway paid $6,000 in bribes to former city systems analyst Christine Kebr, 56, of Castle Shannon. She is to be sentenced Feb. 11 for conspiracy.

He has admitted to paying $9,000 to another person, whom prosecutors have not named.

Mr. Harper's name did not come up in the hearing, but Mr. Dietz referenced his pre-sentencing filings, in which he claimed that the former chief was the mastermind behind Alpha Outfitters.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Karl resisted the idea that there was a "mastermind," but said that if there was one, "It very well may not have been Mr. Bedway."

"We take [Bedway] at his word," Mr. Karl added. "We've talked to him. We believe what he's told us."

Mr. Dietz said that he believed that Mr. Harper remained uncharged in relation to Alpha Outfitters because of "something to do with other investigations" that he would not detail.

Attorney Robert Del Greco, who represents Mr. Harper, countered in a later interview that the former chief "categorically denied that he was a partner with Art Bedway in any enterprise and has never received one red cent from Art Bedway.

"The fact that charges were not [filed] against the chief in relation to Art Bedway speaks volumes" about the businessman's credibility, Mr. Del Greco said.

Mr. Harper is set to be sentenced Feb. 25 on unrelated charges of conspiracy to commit theft from a federally funded program and failure to file tax returns. Federal prosecutors said that he instructed others to place $70,628 in funds meant for city coffers into unauthorized accounts at the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union, then tapped it for $31,986 in personal expenses.

Federal sentencing guidelines suggested a year to a year and a half in prison for Bedway's crime given his lack of prior convictions.

It's not unusual for someone facing a relatively brief prison sentence to get probation instead if they cooperate with federal investigators, said Bruce Antkowiak, a former assistant U.S. attorney and now a law professor at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.

"To go from 12 to 18 months to probation is not exactly a quantum leap," he said. The federal system rewards people who promptly accept responsibility, he said. "If they were giving you additional credit for cooperation with the government ... then probation would not be unusual."

Ms. Kebr and Mr. Harper also have talked with federal agents, and to date they are the only other people who have been charged during a wide-ranging and highly public investigation.

It is possible, though not typical, for everyone charged in a probe to have their sentences reduced in return for substantial cooperation with the government, said Wesley Oliver, an associate professor and the criminal justice program director at the Duquesne University School of Law.

"It could well be that the information they provided led to other people and other crimes that we have not heard about yet," he added.

After Mr. Harper's March indictment, the probe appeared to veer to the mayor's office. A grand jury heard testimony from aides, security detail members and social acquaintances of then-Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Last week U.S. Attorney David Hickton said the investigation continues, but provided no details. He was not available for comment Tuesday.

On Tuesday, spokeswomen for the Bureau of Police and new Mayor Bill Peduto had no comment on Bedway's sentencing.

Bedway, a former karate champ and bodybuilder, now limps following hip replacement surgery. The founder and then chairman of Carnegie-based Victory Security, he no longer has a role with that company, which for a time employed Mr. Harper's wife.

"Thirty years of friendship put me here on these steps," Bedway said, referencing his long relationship with Mr. Harper. The lesson he said he's learned: "Don't trust your friends."

Bedway told the judge he'd transgress no more.

"I'm truthfully sorry for any involvement I've had and any mistakes that I've made," he said, "and I guarantee you'll never see me before this court again."

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter: @richelord.


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord. First Published January 14, 2014 10:39 AM

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