Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed several members of former Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris' security detail to testify next month before a grand jury investigating their boss' practices during his tenure as the city's top officer.
The bodyguards could provide testimony about Norris' actions as commissioner and his use of a little-known, off-the-books expense account to finance thousands of dollars in gifts, meals and trips. Norris' use of the fund seems to be a major focus of the investigation, according to previous subpoenas and sources familiar with the case.
Federal authorities reporting directly to U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio have been investigating Norris, now superintendent of the Maryland State Police, since late February.
Norris' attorney, Andrew Jay Graham, and federal prosecutors declined to comment. Norris has said he did nothing wrong.
Though at least one top police official has testified before the grand jury, the recent subpoenas suggest authorities are stepping up their investigation, former federal prosecutors say.
"This definitely tells me it's the next step, and it's more serious," said David B. Irwin, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. "They are still going. ... When they start going to the people, that's just raising the temperature more."
Gregg L. Bernstein, a former federal prosecutor and defense lawyer said: "At a minimum, [the subpoenas] mean the investigation is moving along and reaching a critical mass and if they haven't already made a decision to prosecute they are close to making a decision. Otherwise, they would not be taking up the grand jury's time."
The bodyguards - identified as Maj. Anthony Barksdale, Sgt. Derrick Mayfield, Sgt. Michael Mancuso and Detective Sean Harrison - were all notified about their pending appearances during the past few weeks, according to some of the officers and sources familiar with the investigation.
A fifth aide, Agent Thomas Tobin, declined to comment, though he is cooperating with federal authorities, according to sources familiar with the case.
Tobin's attorney, Scott D. Shellenberger, also declined to comment yesterday.
Tobin was Norris' driver and close aide who received about $48,000 from the "supplemental account" - which evolved from Great Depression-era charity funds to help needy police officers and others - to finance many purchases and trips for the commissioner.
He returned more than $12,000 in cash to the fund on a single day last year. He said in an interview last year that the money had been kept in a safe in the commissioner's office.
A Sun investigation disclosed Norris' use of the fund in August last year.
Prosecutors may also be investigating overtime earned by Tobin and the other bodyguards. Norris' security detail made about $250,000 in overtime during an 18-month period from January 2001 through July last year, records show.
Last year, Tobin was one of the highest overtime earners on the force, making $43,218 in overtime while chauffeuring Norris, records show. He had a salary of just more than $58,000.
After conducting an outside audit, the city deducted $7,663 in personal or questionable expenses from Norris' $137,000 severance package when the commissioner resigned in December to join the state police.
Federal authorities have questioned several other people in the case, including some of Norris' former aides.
Edward Ambrose, the department's director of finance who oversaw the disbursal of checks from the "supplemental account" on Norris' orders, testified before the grand jury several weeks ago, he said.
Ambrose declined to comment on his testimony.
Sean R. Malone, Norris' one-time legal adviser, was interviewed several months ago and has received a subpoena to testify, according to sources familiar with the case. Malone declined to comment this week.
Olive Waxter, the former director of the nonprofit Baltimore Police Foundation, was questioned by federal investigators several months ago, she said.
Waxter said the questions centered on the workings of the foundation, which financed Mayor Martin O'Malley's "Believe" campaign and purchases of expensive police equipment. Waxter said she had not been subpoenaed and declined to comment further.
Former Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier was questioned by investigators about his use of the fund in recent weeks, according to sources familiar with the case.
Frazier, who declined to comment, spent $356,792 from the account in nearly six years as commissioner.
Norris spent $159,190 in about two years, but the commissioners handled the fund differently, records show.
Frazier generally made purchases first, then was reimbursed later through the supplemental fund. He also kept detailed records, often noting the purpose of a meal and his guests on receipts.
Frazier raised $163,000 for the fund and spent $66,789 from the supplemental account on the Police Athletic League. He also spent $152,000 from the fund on promotional items.