Fred Crawford Jr., the former detective who guarded Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl for years, then hurled accusations at his former boss from Afghanistan, spent more than two hours Tuesday before a federal grand jury, discussing what his attorney described as an investigation of the mayor and overtime abuse.
"I certainly believe [Mr. Ravenstahl is] a target," said Robert Stewart, the attorney who accompanied Mr. Crawford to the grand jury suite, but as per federal rules was not allowed to hear the testimony, which Mr. Crawford gave under limited immunity.
Mr. Stewart said he thinks the investigation will reveal that "a lot of taxpayers' dollars" were "wasted so the mayor could have a designated driver ... while he went out to bars."
He was also asked to respond to the administration's characterization of Mr. Crawford as a liar.
"If [Mr. Ravenstahl] says that now, he will be committing a separate crime of trying to intimidate a witness, and I think that's just the bully that's being backed into a corner," Mr. Stewart said.
Charles Porter Jr., who is Mr. Ravenstahl's attorney, called that characterization "laughable, actually."
"Fred Crawford obviously has a bias against the mayor," Mr. Porter said. "We obviously believe there are significant discrepancies between what Crawford said and what the other bodyguards said."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cessar, who is the lead prosecutor probing the city, spent around three hours before the grand jury. An apparent witness who appeared after Mr. Crawford would not identify herself.
Mr. Crawford, who left the police bureau after 24 years -- six of them as a mayoral bodyguard -- to work as a contractor in Afghanistan, had no comment after his closed-door testimony before the grand jury. Outside of the U.S. Courthouse, he was whisked away by a city police car after Mr. Stewart addressed the media.
The attorney referenced prior reports, some corroborated by other security detail members, that in 2007 the mayor's bodyguards were told to stop reporting the precise start and end times of their shifts, for security reasons. The procedural change came after reports that the bill for the security detail had reached $250,000, driven in part by shifts that could extend to around 2 a.m.
"I think somebody has already disclosed to the media that time sheets were manipulated," Mr. Stewart said. "I don't know if [the bodyguards] were ordered to lie."
Mr. Porter said he did not believe that Mr. Ravenstahl's use of his police security detail constituted criminality.
"Politicians don't give up their personal lives just because they become politicians," he said. Officials from President Barack Obama to governors to other mayors, he said, require security when they are in public.
Mr. Crawford logged 639.5 hours of overtime in 2009, nearly all of it on the mayor's security detail, according to city records.
He worked 550.5 hours of overtime in 2008, 508.5 hours in 2007 and 353.75 hours in 2006.
More recent records were not immediately available. Earlier this year the city denied an open-records request by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for overtime forms for Mr. Crawford and Mr. Ravenstahl's two other bodyguards -- Sgt. Dominick Sciulli and Sgt. Matthew Gauntner -- for 2009 to present. The city also refused to provide any correspondence among top police officials about the change in filling out the forms.
The city said the denial was warranted because the records "relate to ongoing investigations" -- one of the permitted reasons under the state's Right-to-Know Law for prohibiting access.
Sgt. Sciulli's overtime hours for that earlier period peaked in 2007 at 778.5 hours. He put in 658.5 hours in 2009, 570 hours in 2008 and 553.5 hours in 2006.
In 2008 both Mr. Crawford and Sgt. Sciulli changed the way they filled out their overtime slips, according to a review of the paperwork by the Post-Gazette.
In 2006 and 2007, the bodyguards would fill out the start and end times for the overtime portion of their protection work.
But starting in 2008, the times were left blank on nearly all the overtime cards for the mayor's detail, although they were filled in for other types of overtime work.
Also eliminated from most of Mr. Crawford's cards and many of Sgt. Sciulli's was any check mark placed in boxes denoting whether the bodyguard was called from home, working before or after a shift or on a day off.
The net effect was to make it impossible to determine the hours during which a bodyguard was with the mayor.
Retired Lt. Donna Sims, who approved much of the overtime for both bodyguards, refused to comment when asked about the change both in February and again Tuesday.
Mr. Crawford's initial allegation made in February, that Mr. Ravenstahl knew about unauthorized accounts, wasn't a part of his grand jury testimony, Mr. Stewart said.
"I don't think that's part of [Mr. Crawford's] significance" as a witness, he said.
Mr. Crawford in February told the Post-Gazette that Mr. Ravenstahl knew that his bodyguards had debit cards attached to an unauthorized Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union account. That bank account was a centerpiece of the indictment of former police Chief Nate Harper, who is charged with conspiring to divert more than $70,000 in city funds. Of that, prosecutors said, more than $30,000 was for his personal use.
Mr. Ravenstahl, in February and since, has said that he knew about the debit cards but had no idea they were tied to an unauthorized account. Sgt. Sciulli told the Post-Gazette in March that the mayor did not know about the unauthorized account. He and Sgt. Gauntner testified before the grand jury May 8.
Sgt. Gauntner never used his debit card, and Sgt. Sciulli used his around a dozen times, primarily for expenses incurred traveling with the mayor.
Mr. Porter said Mr. Crawford has "credibility issues."
In the wake of Mr. Crawford's initial public statements the administration noted that his testimony was found to be not credible in a 1997 inquiry into a fatal shooting, and that he has faced numerous child support lawsuits.
"I don't believe the U.S. attorney's office would put someone in front of the grand jury believing that they would lie," Mr. Stewart said. He called this "a difficult time because Fred's obviously under great scrutiny."
Mr. Crawford's appearance is another sign that the investigation is zeroing in on Mr. Ravenstahl. Since the May 8 testimony of the bodyguards and the mayor's senior administrator, federal agents have received documents related to his home renovations and sought an interview with his ex-wife, who declined.
Mr. Porter said that doesn't mean there was wrongdoing.
"Any time one starts an investigation, it may open one door and lead to another," he said. "That doesn't mean they've found" anything criminal.
"We don't believe there's any criminality," he said, and he hasn't received any information indicating that the mayor has become the target.
An investigation "is not about morality," he said. "It's about criminality."
The investigation has resulted so far in a guilty plea to conspiracy charges by former city systems analyst Christine Kebr, a scheduled guilty plea by Robinson entrepreneur and former Harper friend Art Bedway and Mr. Harper's indictment for conspiracy and four counts of failure to file tax returns.
Ms. Kebr and Mr. Bedway were charged in connection with what prosecutors described as an effort to rig a bid to install and maintain computers and radios in city police cars.
Moriah Balingit contributed. First Published June 18, 2013 5:15 PM