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Politics & Government

Top Pittsburgh Police Brass Go Before Grand Jury

The city's two highest-ranking police officials appeared Wednesday to testify before a federal grand jury believed to be investigating the mayor's use of police-issued bodyguards and other matters.

Acting police Chief Regina McDonald and Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson entered the grand jury room at about 9 a.m. and left about two hours later, declining to offer specifics.

"Can't tell you anything," McDonald said as she left. "We're not permitted to talk."

"We were just here to assist them with the investigation," Donaldson said.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and his attorney have repeatedly denied wrongdoing. They say federal prosecutors have not told the mayor he's a target of the monthslong probe.

Despite that, Ravenstahl's bodyguards and other aides have been called to testify in recent months, with one bodyguard claiming investigators were trying to determine whether money was misspent paying police bodyguards to drive the 33-year-old divorced mayor to and from bars at night, among other things. The witnesses have also included Ravenstahl's senior secretary, chief of staff and two female friends.

Federal prosecutors aren't commenting because grand jury investigations are secret. City Solicitor Dan Regan said Wednesday, "The city has cooperated, is still cooperating and will continue to cooperate" with the federal investigation.

Former police Chief Nathan Harper is scheduled to plead guilty in federal court Friday to charges he conspired with unnamed others to divert more than $70,000 from a city account into two unauthorized credit union accounts, then spent nearly $32,000 of that himself. The money in question derives from a $3.85 hourly fee that the city charges bars and other businesses when they hire city police for off-duty security details. Harper is also charged with failing to file federal tax returns from 2008 to 2011, when much of the money was apparently stolen.

Ravenstahl has acknowledged two bodyguards used debit cards from the same credit union accounts, though the charges Harper faces are not believed to be directly related to the ongoing investigation.

Harper's attorneys have acknowledged his guilt since he was indicted in March, a month after Ravenstahl forced Harper to resign after meeting with federal investigators. But on Wednesday, one of Harper's attorneys said the former chief has nothing to do with the ongoing investigation.

"He's been interviewed by the FBI, but he has no information that's detrimental to the mayor," attorney Robert Leight said.

Harper was appointed chief after Ravenstahl took office in 2006. Ravenstahl automatically got the job because he was City Council president when then-Mayor Bob O'Connor died in office.

Ravenstahl had been up for re-election next month before abruptly announcing in March that he wouldn't run again, saying speculation related to the investigation and other matters was taking its toll on his family.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.