MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Not too long ago, Ray Norris was Clarke County’s top law enforcement official. 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 sentence is 30 years in prison, but his actual sentence will likely be much less under the 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 business loan from Town Country National Bank in Camden in November 2019. The alleged purpose of the loan was to purchase equipment heavy that would be rented to road crews and other construction work. businesses. But Norris admitted he used $25,000 of the loan to make payments on previous personal loans 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’s president died.
“The bank knew what they were doing with it,” he said. “He had been doing business with this bank for a long time, knew the banker, knew the president of the bank and was a little careless with certain documents. But everything was refunded. So it really is a victimless crime at this point.
Armstrong said exactly what the bank knew was difficult to demonstrate.
“That is certainly a question, unfortunately we cannot ask it because the banker, unfortunately, is now deceased,” he said.
Armstrong said his client remained friends with Beard but was no longer in business with him. Beard, of Gulf Shores, is due to stand 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 did not expect Norris to testify against Beard.
“The money has been refunded, and Ray thinks that’s a good way to solve this problem,” he said.
Norris resigned from his role last year amid allegations of wrongdoing unrelated to the bank loan. In March, a state court judge dismissed charges related to those allegations after determining that the Alabama attorney general’s office, in exchange for the sheriff’s resignation, agreed not to prosecute him for illegal use of campaign contributions, use of his office for personal gain, and income tax evasion.
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