U.S. wants Norris back in Baltimore

Community service must be in city, prosecutors say

February 02, 2005|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,SUN STAFF

Fresh out of federal prison, Baltimore's former police commissioner Edward T. Norris still has three years of supervised release and hundreds of hours of community service left to complete as a result of his conviction on public corruption and tax charges.

But he would rather not do it in Maryland, preferring instead to comply with those portions of his sentence in Florida where he and his family now live.

Last week, federal prosecutors filed court papers arguing that Norris did not deserve that luxury and should perform the community service in the city he defrauded.

"When the defendant should have been serving and protecting the citizens of Baltimore City, he was out of town, spending city money on women, high-end luxury hotels, expensive food, alcohol and lingerie," federal prosecutors wrote. "Therefore, Baltimore City is the community where Mr. Norris should be required to perform his service."

Norris, 44, was released last month from federal prison in Atlanta. In March, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to misuse money from the supplemental city police fund and lying on tax returns.

U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Norris last summer to six months in prison, followed by three years` supervised release, including six months of home detention. Norris also was ordered to pay $12,000 in restitution, a $10,000 fine and perform 500 hours of community service in Baltimore.

Norris' attorney, David B. Irwin, filed a motion in federal court last month requesting that the former police chief's community service be moved to Florida, where he is currently on home detention. Norris, his wife and his son now live in Tampa.

If that request is rejected, Irwin asked that Norris be allowed to complete his community service while on home detention in Baltimore, rather than fulfill those obligations consecutively.

Doubting remorse

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven H. Levin and Jason M. Weinstein, in court filings, opposed both defense requests, arguing that Norris fails to realize the severity of his crimes and does not deserve any modification in his sentence. Worse, prosecutors insisted, Norris doesn't appear to be contrite, despite his guilty plea.

They pointed to a recent television interview Norris gave to WBAL.

"I went to prison for paying my father back on my mortgage. He gave me $9,000," Norris said, according to the WBAL Web site, which was included with the government's filing. "I paid him back, so then it became a loan instead of a gift, and I ended up going to federal prison."

Irwin said yesterday that those quotes were taken out of context.

"He's pleaded guilty, which is an action of remorse," the defense lawyer said.

Levin and Weinstein did not return calls for comment yesterday.

It is unclear whether Bennett will hold a hearing on the sentencing issues or issue an order based on the court filings from prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Unusual conflict

Several lawyers with experience in the federal courts said conflicts over the terms of supervised release was unusual.

"In my experience, it is rather routine to transfer supervised release from one jurisdiction to another if, in fact, the defendant has moved," said Thomas Bergstrom, a Philadelphia-based attorney with experience with white-collar criminal cases.

Andrew C. White, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore who now represents criminal defendants in federal court, said that community service is one of the few activities a person under home detention is generally allowed to do.

"I would say that it seems to be overly punitive," said White, who at one time represented Norris' father.

Norris was hired in early 2000 to be Baltimore's chief deputy police commissioner and soon was elevated to the top spot in the department. He resigned his city post in December 2002 to become the Maryland State Police superintendent. He resigned from that job when he was indicted on federal charges in December 2003.

Some attorneys suggested that Norris' public fall from grace may be one reason why federal prosecutors are blocking any change to his sentence.

"Aside from his name and his position in the community," said Dale Kelberman, a former assistant U.S. attorney now in private practice in Baltimore, "the government would not normally oppose this kind of request."

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