- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2003

BALTIMORE — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday accepted the resignation of Maryland State Police Superintendent Edward T. Norris, hours after an unsealed indictment accused Col. Norris of spending police funds on extramarital affairs while he was Baltimore’s police commissioner.

Col. Norris, 43, will get his job back if he is cleared of the charges in federal court in Baltimore, the governor said.

“I’m not going to give an opinion on guilt or innocence,” Mr. Ehrlich said.

Thomas E. Hutchins, secretary of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs, will be acting state police superintendent, Mr. Ehrlich said. Mr. Hutchins is a former trooper and a former House of Delegates member from Charles County.

Col. Norris was indicted on charges of using Baltimore Police Department funds to finance affairs with several women and pay for personal trips while he was police commissioner, U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio said.

Indicted with Col. Norris was his former chief of staff at the Baltimore department, John Stendrini. They are accused of misusing more than $20,000 between May 2000 and August 2002 from an account created from three Depression-era charity funds set up to benefit police officers.

“The defendants repeatedly used the funds as if it were their own ATM and repeatedly made withdrawals to pay for luxury hotels, expensive meals, clothing and gifts and to finance romantic encounters with several different women,” Mr. DiBiagio said.

Col. Norris was the Baltimore police commissioner from May 2000 through 2002, when he left to join the state police.

The indictment said that although there were no written guidelines for the use of money from the account, it “was required to be used for the benefit of the Baltimore Police Department.”

Col. Norris and Mr. Stendrini used false authorization letters for more than 40 withdrawals from the fund, the indictment said. They also caused the city to incur excessive overtime expenses by using police officers to “transport female companions in connection with romantic encounters” with Col. Norris, Mr. DiBiagio said.

Col. Norris carried on the encounters in Baltimore and New York with at least six women, the indictment says.

He used money from the fund to “stock his house with alcohol, pay for travel, pay for gifts from Victoria’s Secret and Coach,” Mr. DiBiagio said.

In May 2002, Col. Norris lied about attending a meeting on terrorism in New York that had been canceled and billed the fund for $700 for the trip, Mr. DiBiagio said.

Col. Norris also is accused of lying on a mortgage application to a municipal employees’ credit union. He received a $9,000 loan from an employee for a down payment on his home, but falsely represented that the money was a gift from his father, the indictment said.

Col. Norris has been under investigation since early this year for activities during his tenure as the city’s police commissioner.

Col. Norris’ attorney, Andrew J. Graham, did not respond to repeated phone calls yesterday to his office and cell phone seeking comment. Mr. Stendrini’s attorney, Michael Schatzow, was out of town and could not immediately be reached for comment, his office said.

Col. Norris joined the Baltimore department from the New York City Police Department, bringing with him a computer crime-tracking system called ComStat. Under his tenure, Baltimore cut its crime rates sharply.

Mr. Ehrlich hired Col. Norris as state police superintendent in December.

Col. Norris is charged with one count each of conspiracy to misapply funds, misapplication of funds and making a false statement in a mortgage application.

Mr. Stendrini, 60, is charged with one count each of conspiracy to misapply funds, misapplication of funds and obstruction of justice.

Once city officials began raising questions about the account, Mr. Stendrini lied to them about how the money had been handled, the indictment said.

The misapplication of funds charges stem from the use of federal money to cover city police department expenses such as overtime and costs that could have been covered by the special account.

If convicted of all charges, Col. Norris would face a maximum sentence of 45 years. Mr. Stendrini would face a maximum sentence of 25 years.

More indictments could follow, Mr. DiBiagio said.

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