- The Washington Times - Monday, March 8, 2004

BALTIMORE — Former Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris pleaded guilty yesterday to using thousands of dollars in police funds to pay for liquor, extramarital affairs, lavish meals and nights at fancy hotels.

In a plea agreement reached at U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Norris, 43, also pleaded guilty to filing a false federal income tax return. He had been scheduled for arraignment before Judge Richard Bennett on three tax charges added to his original indictment, but instead entered the guilty pleas.

U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio said Norris, by pleading guilty, admitted spending as much as $30,000 from three off-the-books police accounts. The funds were set up in the Depression era to benefit officers.

“Public officials who lie, cheat and steal undermine our fundamental right to fair and honest government,” Mr. DiBiagio said. “We deserve better. We deserve public officials who are both effective and honest.”

Mr. DiBiagio described the case as “a reminder of the embedded corruption here and the emerging resolve not to look the other way.” He declined to elaborate on what he meant by “embedded corruption” or any other public corruption cases.

“The law will be enforced against drug dealers, bank robbers and corrupt public officials with the same vigor,” Mr. DiBiagio said.

Norris declined to comment as he left the courtroom. His attorney, David Irwin, said Norris “accepted full responsibility for the mistakes outlined in the charges to which he pled guilty.”

“He made the decision that a long, drawn-out trial would bring too much pain and embarrassment to his family, his friends and the city of Baltimore,” Mr. Irwin said. “Now he’ll try to pick up the pieces with his family and put this behind him.”

Norris and his former chief of staff, John Stendrini, were accused of misusing the money from May 2000 to August 2002. Although there were no written guidelines for using funds from the account, it “was required to be used for the benefit of the Baltimore Police Department,” according to the December indictment.

Norris pleaded guilty to conspiracy to misuse city police funds and one count of filing a false tax form. The other charges misapplication of funds, making a false statement on a mortgage application and two more counts of filing a false statement on a tax return will be dropped.

He is expected to receive a sentence of six to 12 months, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Norris also faces a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution of up to $30,000. Mr. Irwin said Norris repaid the city $7,500 before he left at the end of 2002 to become head of the Maryland State Police.

He resigned from the state police post in December.

Mr. Stendrini, 60, was charged with conspiracy to misapply funds, misapplication of funds and obstruction of justice. He pleaded not guilty to all charges. Mr. DiBiagio said his case was scheduled for trial in June.

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