Norris is left to `pick up the pieces'

He hopes to become security consultant or law enforcement adviser

March 09, 2004|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

After making his life's work all about catching criminals, former Baltimore police commissioner Edward T. Norris pleaded guilty yesterday to two federal felony charges that left him unable to own a gun and uncertain of his career prospects.

"He'll try to pick up the pieces with his family and put this behind him," defense attorney David B. Irwin told reporters after Norris pleaded guilty to corruption and tax-evasion charges. "As an acknowledged expert in counter-terrorism and police force building, we hope there is some way his talents can be used in the future."

Rebuilt careers

Many of Maryland's highest-profile federal felons have gone on to find work and rebuild their lives after the glare of their convictions and sentences has faded. Annapolis lobbyists Gerard E. Evans and Bruce C. Bereano, convicted in separate fraud cases in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, have returned successfully to their careers.

Former Gov. Marvin Mandel, whose conviction in a federal mail fraud case ended his political career but was later overturned, has returned to public life with his appointment to the state university system's Board of Regents.

Even Baltimore criminals as notorious as Melvin "Little Melvin" Williams, considered to have revolutionized the city's heroin trade in the 1960s and 1970s, find second acts. Williams, out of prison, volunteers as a counselor to help steer young men away from the drug trade.

Norris, 43, could face challenges as he looks to redefine a career that has been spent in law enforcement, first as an aggressive street officer in New York and later as head of the Baltimore Police Department and superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

Job-hunting difficulties

"He is, as of today, a convicted felon, and he would not be able to bear arms," Irwin said outside court. Norris struggled to find work while under federal indictment, his lawyer said, adding, "He's not been able to find employment, obviously, with this hanging over his head."

Norris, who is married and has a young son, has been living in the Tampa, Fla., area since his indictment in December. He resigned his $144,000-a-year post as head of the state police that day and has not worked since.

As city police commissioner, Norris was paid $137,000 a year.

Irwin said Norris probably will seek work as a security consultant or law enforcement adviser, well-paying fields that attract many former police officers and federal agents.

Irwin noted Norris' successes in reshaping Baltimore's troubled police force, reducing crime rates in the city and restoring department morale.

A stylish dresser who got regular manicures and knew his way around a wine list, Norris also has shown a willingness to make a name for himself.

Cameo TV role

While commissioner, he once made a cameo appearance on the Baltimore-based HBO police drama The Wire, on which he played a street-level homicide detective.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Norris became a de facto national spokesman for local police chiefs on the need for more federal cooperation in preventing terrorism.

In a July interview, Norris said his legacy "shouldn't be that I bought steaks in New York."

His lawyer said yesterday that Norris' record of accomplishments should not be blocked out by his criminal conviction.

"We hope the big picture is taken into account and not just the charges here," Irwin said.

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