Former Clarke County sheriff pleads guilty to lying on loan application
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Not too long ago, Ray Norris was Clarke County’s top law enforcement officer. Now he’s a convicted felon.
The former sheriff pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to one count of making a false statement to a federally insured institution. The maximum penalty is 30 years in prison, but his actual punishment likely will be substantially less under advisory sentencing guidelines. Federal prosecutors have agreed to recommend leniency in sentencing.
Norris admitted that he and business partner Danny Lee Beard Jr. applied for a $75,000 commercial loan from Town Country National Bank in Camden in November 2019. The purported purpose of that loan was to purchase heavy equipment that would be rented to road crews and other construction companies. But Norris admitted that he used $25,000 from the loan to make payments on previous personal loans that the same bank had made to Norris and his wife.
Defense attorney Gordon Armstrong said a factor in his client’s decision to plead guilty is that the bank president has passed away.
“The bank knew what he was doing with it,” he said. “He’d done business with this bank for a long time, knew the banker, knew the president of the bank and got a little careless with some of the paperwork. But it’s all been paid back. So it’s really a victimless crime at this point.”
Armstrong said exactly what the bank knew would be difficult to demonstrate.
“That’s certainly a question, unfortunately, we can’t ask because the banker, unfortunately, is deceased now,” he said.
Armstrong said his client remains friends with Beard but no longer is in business with him. Beard, of Gulf Shores, is scheduled to go on trial next month. His attorney, Dennis Knizley, previously told FOX10 News that he did not expect the former sheriff’s plea to affect his client’s case.
Armstrong said he does not expect Norris to testify against Beard.
“The money’s been paid back, and Ray thinks this is a good way to resolve this,” he said.
Norris resigned from office last year amid allegations of wrongdoing unrelated to the bank loan. 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.
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