Federal prosecutors say in court filings that Harper was leader of conspiracy

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In what appears to be the final legal jockeying in advance of Nate Harper's sentencing set for Tuesday, prosecutors Friday backed up their claim that the former Pittsburgh police chief was a leader of a conspiracy.

Though Mr. Harper, of Stanton Heights, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, his attorneys have said in pre-sentencing filings that his civilian underlings were not co-conspirators. They have also said that it was not his idea to create an unauthorized account at a credit union and to fund it with checks sent to pay the city for officers' moonlighting jobs.

"There was a conspiracy with multiple participants, and Harper organized, led, managed and supervised it," wrote assistant U.S. attorneys Robert Cessar and Lee Karl in a rebuttal. "Indeed, he instructed [subordinates] to misapply the funds at issue."

They reminded U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon that Mr. Harper pleaded guilty to conspiracy -- a crime which, by definition, involves others. They also said that the former chief did not object to the indictment alleging that he ordered diversion of $70,629 to the unauthorized account and spent $31,987 on personal expenditures.

"As such, the defendant has already conceded that there were other participants and that he organized, led, managed and/or supervised them," the prosecutors wrote.

If the judge decides that Mr. Harper was a leader, then federal sentencing guidelines would suggest a sentence of 11/2 to two years. If he was not a leader, then the guideline sentence would be one to 11/2 years.

The judge is not required to follow the guideline.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord. First Published February 21, 2014 12:41 PM

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