Former Clarke County sheriff to plead guilty to federal charge

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 5:48 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Former Clarke County Sheriff Ray Norris will plead guilty to a federal criminal charge, according to a court filing on Tuesday.

Norris notified the court of his intent to plead guilty to one count of a seven-count indictment alleging that he made a false statement on a loan application. His attorney, Gordon Armstrong, confirmed that the former sheriff had worked out a plea bargain with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Armstrong told FOX10 News that prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence at the low end of advisory guidelines, about 15 months. Armstrong said he would seek probation.

The indictment accuses Norris and a friend, Danny Lee Beard, of making a false statement on a $75,000 loan application in 2019. The stated purpose of the loan was to purchase rental equipment, but prosecutors alleged that $25,000 went to make payments on existing loans that the same bank made to Norris and his wife.

Norris resigned from office last year amid allegations of wrongdoing unrelated to the bank loans. A state court judge in March dismissed charges related to those allegations after determining that the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, in exchange for the sheriff’s resignation, had agreed not to prosecute him on charges of unlawful use of campaign contributions, using his office for personal gain and income tax evasion.

Charges remain pending against Beard. He is scheduled to go on trial next month.

According to Beard’s attorney, Dennis Knizley, he doesn’t anticipate Norris’s intent to plead guilty to interfere with Beard’s case.

Knizley says they are still awaiting trial.

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