An ex-Alabama sheriff pleaded guilty Monday to a crime linked to loans he claimed were needed to pay for office expenses. But some of the loan requests went to cover his personal gambling debt, prosecutors claimed.
William “Ray” Norris, 44, who was Clarke County Sheriff, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to a federally insured institution, according to news reports. Other counts were dismissed earlier.
Faces $1M Fine, Decades in Prison
If convicted, Norris could be sentenced for up to 30 years in prison. He also faces a fine of up to $1 million. If incarcerated, after release from prison he could be placed on supervised release for three years.
Officially, Norris said the money was for office expenses and for food for prisoners. But the money went to cover his own gambling debt, overdrawn personal accounts, and other personal expenses, an indictment revealed, AL.com, an Alabama regional news site, reported.
After word of the allegations surfaced, he stepped down from his sheriff’s job in June 2021. He was indicted initially on several counts and there was a move to impeach him.
But impeachment proceedings by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office stopped after Norris resigned.
The indictment came after Norris applied for four loans at two Alabama banks between 2017 and 2018, AL.com said. The banks were identified as Town County National Bank in Camden and Sweet Water State Bank in Sweet Water.
Earlier this year, Norris and a former business partner also were indicted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama. Norris had applied for more than $192,000 at Town Country National Bank in loans between November 2017 and June 2020, officials said.
Norris also allegedly used part of a $75,000 bank loan to pay $25,000 in personal loans he took out at the bank, prosecutors said.
Prior Charges Dropped
Earlier, Norris also was indicted on five counts for unlawful use of campaign contributions, violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act, use of office for personal gain, violating the Statement of Economic Interest disclosure requirements, and income tax evasion, Alabama Today, a local news site reported.
But those counts were dismissed in March by Alabama Judge Braxton Kittrell. He explained Norris had agreed to resign from the sheriff’s post and a plea agreement kept him from being prosecuted another time for allegations while he was a sheriff, Alabama Today said.
In a statement last year, Marshall said the public must be able to trust elected officials, especially law enforcement leaders.
Sheriff Norris could no longer be trusted as a public servant or as a law enforcement official, and his resignation should be a welcome relief to the public,” Marshall added in the statement. “Sheriff Norris’ decision to resign from office, however, does not foreclose the possibility that criminal charges will be filed against him.”
A sentencing hearing has yet to be scheduled on the single charge. Norris is not in custody while waiting for his sentencing.
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