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Norris accused of tax violation

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Federal prosecutors brought additional charges against former Baltimore police Commissioner Edward T. Norris yesterday, alleging that Norris violated tax law by failing to report as income money from an off-the-books department account used for personal expenditures.

A four-count indictment in December charged Norris with misappropriating more than $20,000 from a loosely structured expense account to pay for lavish meals and gifts and to finance extramarital affairs while he headed the city Police Department. Norris later served as superintendent of the Maryland State Police but resigned in the aftermath of the charges.

Government lawyers added three counts in a superseding indictment filed late yesterday, electronic court records show. The new counts accuse Norris of making false statements on his federal tax returns by failing to report as income the money from the account, according to defense lawyers who had been told by prosecutors to expect the new charges.

A copy of the new indictment was not available last night.

Norris' former chief of staff, John Strendini, also was named in the December indictment. His lawyer, Michael Schatzow, said the case against his client is unchanged.

Attorneys representing Norris said the new indictment came as no surprise.

"It wasn't unexpected, and we'll be dealing with it in normal course," defense attorney David B. Irwin said last night.

Officials with the U.S. attorney's office could not be reached to comment.

The new counts against Norris come as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments this morning in a Minnesota case that challenges as unconstitutional the broad anti-corruption statute that prosecutors in Baltimore relied on in bringing their case against Norris.

If the high court finds the law is overly broad, prosecutors still have a legal weapon in the tax charges.

In the Minneapolis case, real estate developer Basim Omar Sabri was accused of bribing a local City Council member. A federal trial judge in Minnesota dismissed the indictment on the grounds that the anti-corruption statute was unconstitutionally broad, but a divided appeals court later reinstated it.

The federal law in question, sometimes referred to simply by its criminal code number - 666 - was designed to protect the billions of federal dollars distributed each year to state and local agencies. The law allows U.S. prosecutors to pursue virtually any local corruption case, provided only that the probe is linked to an agency that receives at least $10,000 in federal funds.

Prosecutors are not required to show a link between the alleged offenses and the federal money.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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