Four years after he swept into Baltimore with a zero-tolerance plan for fighting crime, Edward T. Norris pleaded guilty yesterday to federal corruption and tax charges, reports the Baltimore Sun. Norris, 43, admitted conspiring to misuse money from a supplemental city police fund and lying on tax returns. The former city police commissioner and Maryland state police superintendent could face up to a year in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for June 21.
His federal charges stemmed from an off-the-books police expense account, which court records show he used to pay for extramarital encounters with several women and to satisfy a taste for the good life. His splurges included shopping trips, outings with friends at pricey hotel bars, and steak dinners. Maryland U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio said Norris’ conviction was a “reminder of the embedded corruption here, and the emerging resolve not to look the other way. We deserve better. We deserve public officials who are both effective and honest. The only way to get from here to there is a policy of zero tolerance [for corruption], backed up by an unyielding commitment and intractable belief that the rules apply to everyone.”
The Sun says that Norris tried to disguise his personal spending as being for legitimate department business and was wary of detection. Attorneys for Norris said that if his case had gone to trial they would have disputed some of the allegations, which listed 34 instances of improper activity or spending by Norris.
The plea deal could change. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a constitutional challenge to the anticorruption statute that prosecutors relied on. If the Supreme Court rules that statute unconstitutional, Norris would be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea to that charge. His tax conviction would stand, and the potential punishment would drop from a prison term of six to 12 months to a sentence of up to six months. The high court is expected to rule by June.